Ami Forte’s Trader at Morgan Stanley Resurfaces at Small Broker-Dealer
One month after he was fired by Morgan Stanley for his involvement in the Ami Forte scandal that cost the company $34 million, Charles J. Lawrence is starting over.
The broker, who worked with Forte for about 15 years at Morgan Stanley’s Palm Harbor, Florida, branch, has joined the Tampa office of small New York City-based firm R.F. Lafferty with no client book and questions about why he was terminated.
Forte is the Morgan Stanley Chairman’s Club advisor who along with the firm and her branch manager were found liable in an arbitration last month for unsuitable and unauthorized trading in the account of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer, with whom she also allegedly had an affair.
Lawrence was not named in the complaint from Speer’s widow and family foundation, but testified. Both he and Forte were fired by the firm on March 23. The U-5 form that Morgan Stanley filed with regulators said he was discharged over “concerns relating to compliance with firm policy and/or industry rules regarding the use of trading discretion in connection with customer arbitration.”
Reached at his new office, Lawrence said he was responsible for executing some of the trades in the Speer account, noting that he had a “good relationship” with the client. The trades were based on strategies developed in New York and were “some of the most profitable fixed income accounts in the entire firm,” he said, adding that he received no commissions on the account.
“Honestly, I don’t understand why I was let go,” he said .
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman, who last month said the firm did not believe the arbitration award was justified, did not return a call for comment on Lawrence’s termination.
“For three years [since the complaint was filed], I had been told I had done nothing wrong,” said Lawrence. “Then you get an outcome like that and —that’s what they told me—based on the outcome of the case, we’re letting you go. I’m still at a loss.”
Lawrence began his career at Morgan Stanley in 1998, and was assigned to work with Forte in 2000 when she joined from Bank of America Investor Services , according to his BrokerCheck report and information he provided. Lawrence, who was born in 1965, making him eight years Forte’s junior, said he does plan to challenge his discharge but hopes to attract some of the personal accounts he covered as part of Forte’s team. Most of the accounts have been assigned to Forte’s son, Evan, he said.
“Whether I start from scratch in a business I have been in for 18 years and have to rebuild, or have clients who decide to continue working with me, that remains to be seen,” said Lawrence, who said he was referred to Rafferty by a friend who works there.
New York City-based Lafferty employs about 70 brokers and lost $725,000 on $6.2 million of revenue in 2015, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.