Morgan Stanley Fires Two 50-plus Year Brokers in Boston
It’s been a tough few months at the Exchange Place branch of Morgan Stanley in Boston, where the firm has fired a pair of brokers with 100 years of experience after two younger members of their seven-person team were barred from the industry.
The senior brokers—James R. “Bob” Willing and John H. Buck III—were discharged on January 29 over “allegations about the timing and completeness of disclosures to the firm regarding involvement in private investments outside the firm,” according to their BrokerCheck histories.
Their younger colleagues, James Polese and Cornelius “Cory” Peterson, earlier in January agreed to plead guilty to fraud for stealing $500,000 from a client and making unauthorized investments in a wind farm business. The pair were dismissed by Morgan Stanley last June.
Reached at home, Willing said his and Buck’s dismissals were unrelated to those of Polese and Peterson, but declined to comment on the allegations against him or whether he would challenge them. Willing and Buck have been colleagues since joining Hornblower Weeks in 1965.
But sources said the scandal engulfing the younger brokers drew headlines in local papers and likely prompted Morgan Stanley to take a closer look at the entire team.
“They were discharged after an internal review related to potential violations of the firm’s policies, including policies related to outside activities,” a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said in an emailed statement about Willing and Buck.
Buck could not be reached for comment.
Polese’s career tracked those of the senior advisors as the three moved from Prudential Securities and successor Wachovia Securities to UBS in 2004. They joined Morgan Stanley in 2011, while Peterson arrived at the firm in 2012 at the start of his brokerage career.
Willing’s BrokerCheck report lists nine outside activities, including serving as a director of a biotechnology consulting company and of several other local businesses. Buck’s report identifies a single outside investment at a venture fund called Gemini Partners, where he has been an investor since 1995.
The Willing Group website is still live, but lists only one advisor, senior vice president Sarah Porter, and two associates.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in recent years has cracked down on violations of its outside business and private securities transactions rules. It recently proposed revisions to the rules.