Former NBA Center Sues Merrill and Former FA for $17.4 Mln-plus
Former pro basketball player Kwame Brown has sued Merrill Lynch and his former financial advisor for fraud, claiming that mishandling of his account cost him $17.4 million over seven years.
The suit, which also names Merrill parent Bank of America as a defendant, was filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Brown, a center who was the NBA’s #1 draft pick out of high school in 2001 and played for nine teams over 12 seasons, including both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.
Brown alleges that his broker, Michelle Marquez, did not have discretion to trade in his account without his permission but depleted it through transactions and conversion of a loan he wanted to pay down into an unauthorized line of credit. Between 2010 and 2017, Marquez invested funds into “various projects” and forged Brown’s signature on account opening documents on discretionary accounts, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiff suffered a massive financial loss due to Marquez’ actions,” according to the complaint, which charges fraud, conversion and breach of contract and seeks return of the $17.4 million in addition to unspecified compensatory damages and costs.
The complaint spotlights continuing battles between athletes who claim to have been defrauded by advisors and financial firms that often depict themselves as deep-pocketed targets of individuals who squandered their riches.
“There’s a responsibility on both sides,” says Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute, a network of financial planners based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. “There’s a history of athletes not paying attention or being self destructive around money.”
Marquez, who works in Merrill’s Pasadena office and has been with the firm and Banc of America Investment Services for 18 of her 20 years as registered representative, did not return a call for comment. A Merrill spokesman said he could not immediately comment on the complaint.
According to the complaint, which was disclosed by the website the Blast, a Merrill employee working with Marquez told Brown that he had authorized the advisor to trade and invest on his behalf. The lawsuit includes a filing from an “expert” who alleges that signatures on various account opening documents were forged.
Brown, who lives in Atlanta, did not return a message left for comment at a publicly listed phone number. His Los Angeles-based lawyer, Corey Boddie, did not return a call for comment.
Marquez began her career as a registered representative in late 1997 and has a single disclosure on her BrokerCheck record, a customer complaint from 2003 seeking $10,000 over B-share mutual fund purchases. The complaint was closed with no action taken.
Prior to joining Bank of America’s brokerage unit in 2002, Marquez worked at Linsco Private Ledger Corp. (now LPL Financial), Bisys Brokerage Services and FN Investment Center, according to BrokerCheck.
Brown, who was drafted by the Washington Wizards under Michael Jordan’s stewardship, also played for the Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers, in addition to the two Los Angeles teams. He earned just under $64 million in his career, according to the Blast article.