A former top financial advisor has been banned from the industry for making millions of dollars over the course of a years-long tryst with the co-founder of the Home Shopping Network, according to a financial watchdog group.
Ami Forte, a former broker and managing director for Morgan Stanley who was once deemed one of Barron’s top female advisors, and her underling executed "unsuitable and excessive" trades in elderly business executive Roy Speer's account, generating more than $9 million in commissions, according to sources and a report released by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Forte began a professional and romantic relationship with Speer in the 1990s, and over time she allegedly began to take advantage of his trust until he died in mid-2012, according to official documents.
But Speer, who was identified in court papers as “RS,” suffered from “severe cognitive impairment” – something that Forte and her colleague neglected to report to Morgan Stanley, according to FINRA. Instead, they allegedly upped their activity through the elderly exec’s accounts, which had a collective sum of roughly $192 million at one time.
"Indeed, during the ten-month period from September 2011 through June 2012, after [Speer] had been diagnosed with severe cognitive impairment, Forte and [her underling, Charles] Lawrence effected more than 2,800 trades in RS’s accounts, generating over $9 million in commissions."
Forte topped Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors lists starting in 2010.
Despite Speer being diagnosed with a form of dementia or Alzheimer’s as early 2008, more than 2,800 trades were effected through his account from September 2011 to June 2012.
“[Speer’s] accounts generated approximately 94 percent of Forte’s commission revenues and allowed Forte to garner the number one ranking on Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors list for 2010, 2011 and 2012, and to rank number 25 on Barron’s Top 100 Financial Advisors list in 2012,” according to official documents.
He was hospitalized on June 20, 2012, until his death in August of that year.
“Despite being hospitalized and not in contact with anyone from the Forte Group, between June 20, 2012 and June 29, 2012, RS’s accounts had over $14 million in transactions,” papers show.
In 2015, Speer’s widow, Lynnda sued Morgan Stanley and Forte seeking more than $400 million and fees, records show. The bank settled for $34 million, finding Forte and another employee liable.
Forte was terminated from her post at Morgan Stanley in April 2016 after the bank became aware of the conduct.
She later filed a wrongful termination suit against Morgan Stanley, claiming she was not the person responsible for the account activity in question, according to the Post.
“Ms. Forte's claims overlook the fact that she was already adjudicated as jointly liable for the award based on her conduct," bank spokesperson Christine Jockle said in a statement at the time. "Despite this, Ms. Forte has failed to contribute anything to the amount awarded, and has also failed to repay substantial sums loaned to her in connection with her employment. We categorically reject her claims against Morgan Stanley and look forward to addressing all these issues at a hearing on the merits.”
Forte accepted the terms of FINRA findings, although she neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing, according to FINRA.
"I have agreed with FINRA that I will no longer seek employment in the brokerage industry, an industry to which I devoted most of my adult life," Forte said in a statement provided by her attorney. "However, in light of my wrongful termination by Morgan Stanley, which is still being litigated, my career in the industry has been effectively ruined. That, coupled with the fact that this is occurring in the latter stage of my career, meant there was little prospect of my being able to re-enter the industry anytime in the foreseeable future. As I have previously stated, I neither placed nor supervised any of the trades that FINRA has deemed inappropriate."