Fired UBS Broker Celebrates Expungement of Termination Notice
A former UBS broker who said he was having trouble attracting customers to his independent advisory business because his discharge was posted on BrokerCheck won expungement of the regulatory notice this week.A three-person Finra arbitration panel in Washington ruled that the broker, Brandon Mink, had proven that the reasons for discharge that UBS included in its Form U5 notice were potentially defamatory.
“Mink’s undisputed testimony shows the deleterious effect that Claimant UBS Financial Services, Inc.’s release of the reasons for his termination already has had on his reputation, his ability to find work, and on his financial situation,” the three arbitrators wrote in an unusual explanatory statement. “[U]ndisputed evidence shows that Respondent Mink has not harmed any investors and any investor concerns were minimal.”
Tuesday’s decision follows a settlement that the 47-year-old broker reached in February with UBS over its claim that he owed it $810,845 on seven promissory notes. Mink, who joined UBS from Smith Barney in 2008, had counterclaimed for at least $6 million, including $5 million for personal damages that he said UBS and its advisors were causing to his new business.
Now an independent broker in Vienna, Va., affiliated with Spire Securities, Mink would not discuss terms of the settlement, other than to call it “very appropriate.” A UBS spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
But Mink, who said he had been producing more than $2.5 million in annual revenue at UBS when he was fired in October 2016, said removal of the “weaponized” U5 from public scrutiny should help him win customers who were routinely steered to the BrokerCheck site by competitors.
“I can now go back to work and grow my business,” he said.
He estimated that his success in attracting new business was halved from a 30-40% close ratio at UBS because competitors were highlighting to prospects the publicly available discharge notice. UBS, he added, retained about 40% of his customers’ assets, in contrast to the more than 100% of assets that former Smith Barney customers transferred to him within six months of his arrival at the Swiss bank’s U.S. broker-dealer in May 2008.
According to the summary of UBS’ dismissal notice on Mink’s BrokerCheck report, the bank dismissed him for violating firm policies on email communications and on reporting of customer complaints. He offered a detailed counter to the charges, asserting, among other things, that his use of a personal email account involved information he sent himself from a work account about a UBS-approved charity.
He and his lawyer, Michelle Atlas, of AdvisorLaw, said a confidentiality clause in the settlement prevented them from theorizing as to why UBS would have wanted to fire a $2 million-plus producer.
In a 2018 Bloomberg article about alleged U5 “smears” on departing brokers, Mink said that the termination ended discussions he was having with a rival firm offering a large signing bonus. UBS may have gotten wind of his plans, a source said, which also would have involved his inheriting a large book at the firm from a retiring broker.
This week’s expungement was not Mink’s first arbitration victory. In January, arbitrators authorized removal of a seven-year-old customer complaint, the only other mark on his publicly available Central Registration Depository record. UBS had denied the customer complaint.
“If you put a value on your reputation,” Mink said of his expungement battles, “it’s well worth the time, patience and money to gain redemption, at a minimum, and truth and fairness at a higher level.”