Stifel and Broker Ordered to Pay $800K Over Account Withdrawals
A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel has ordered Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. and a St. Louis-based broker at the firm to pay a client $800,000 in compensation for her claim of being hoodwinked about allowing money to be withdrawn from accounts she held with her estranged husband.
“[A]s a result of Russell’s actions, alone and in concert with the decedent, and because of Russell’s failure to provide claimant or her attorney-in-fact with material information, Claimant and her children were left substantially disinherited from the majority of the Decedent’s financial assets that had been provided for them under his and Claimant’s estate plans,” the summary said.
Stifel and Russell lost their bid to dismiss the claim, which was filed against the firm and broker in August 2018, and to expunge the complaint from Russell’s regulatory records. A Stifel spokesman declined to comment on the case, and Russell did not return a request for comment left at his work number.
Merle Buzzotta, who filed the complaint and was represented by St. Louis personal injury lawyer David S. Corwin, had requested more than $3 million in compensatory damages, more than $1 million in punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. The arbitrators denied a motion for sanctions that they had requested prior to the evidentiary hearing.
Neither Buzzota nor Corwin returned requests for comment.
The three arbitrators, two of whom were public representatives, denied without explanation the punitive damages and legal fees and awarded the $800,000 award to be paid jointly and severally by Stifel and Russell. (Finra arbitrators generally do not provide reasons unless both parties request an explained decision.) Buzzotta and the respondents were each assessed half of the $13,050 fees for 10 hearing sessions and prehearing conferences, according to the award.