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 junior members of their seven-person team were barred from the industry amid federal fraud charges.
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 longtime junior team members James Polese and Cornelius “Cory” Peterson agreed earlier in January to plead guilty to fraud charges for stealing $500,000 from a client and making unauthorized investments in a wind farm business. The junior brokers had been dismissed by Morgan Stanley last June.
Reached at home, Willing said the firm’s dismissals of him and Buck—who have worked together since joining Hornblower Weeks in 1965—were unrelated to the charges made against Polese and Peterson, but declined to comment on the allegations against him or whether he would challenge them.
The scandalous charges against the younger brokers that drew headlines in local papers likely prompted Morgan Stanley to take a closer look at the entire team, leading to the outside business activity allegations. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in recent years has brought numerous fines for violations of its outside business and private securities transactions rule but last month proposed a revised version in response to complaints about its vagueness.
“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.
Polese’s career track followed those of the senior advisors as they move from Prudential Securities and successor Wachovia Securities to UBS in 2004, before joining Morgan Stanley in 2011. Peterson joined the team at Morgan Stanley’s 53 State Street branch in 2012 at the start of his career
Buck could not be reached for comment.
Willing’s BrokerCheck report lists nine outside activities, including serving as a director of a biotechnology consulting company and several other local businesses, and real-estate investing. Buck’s report identifies only one outside investment at Gemini Partners, a venture fund where he has been an investor since 1995.
The Willing Group maintains a Morgan Stanley website under that name, but lists just one advisor, senior vice president Sarah Porter, and two associates.