Wells Fargo Dismisses $6.5 Billion ‘Top’ Bank Broker in Palo Alto
Wells Fargo Advisors fired one of its top-producing advisors last week, an eyebrow-raising move that the firm said was unrelated to his securities business.
Michael L. Abrams, whose two-advisor team in Palo Alto, CA, managed more than $6 billion for fewer than 80 households, according to Barron’s and Forbes rankings, was let go for failing to meet Wells’s “conduct expectations,” according to a summary of the U5 termination notice the bank filed with state regulators.
Abrams could not be reached for comment. His practice partner, Joseph Yapaola, said he could not comment or provide a contact number. Yapaola and a client associate remain with Wells.
A spokeswoman at Wells Fargo Advisors declined to comment.
Abrams ranked #10 in Forbes’ most recent best-in-state wealth advisors poll in California and #234 nationally. It said his team had custody of $6.1 billion of client assets as of August 25. Barron’s ranked Abrams #54 in California, and also listed him as a “Top 1200” national advisor from 2011 through 2019. The magazine said that as of last September he was managing $6.5 billion for 78 households with an average net worth of $40 million.
Wells Fargo Advisors in May terminated another ranked California advisor at the Wealth Brokerage unit, Steven H. Heng, for alleged improprieties involving his personal bank account cash withdrawals, according to his BrokerCheck history. Heng, who Forbes ranked #101 in California with $350 million in client assets this year, is now an advisor with Robert W. Baird in Roseville, CA.
Wells Fargo has been under intense regulatory and legislative scrutiny since disclosing four years ago that bankers created fake accounts to meet aggressive sales targets, leading to the ouster of top executives, asset-size restrictions and billions of dollars of fines. The scandals did not emerge directly from the wealth management unit, which includes more than 13,000 brokers, but the division has been reorganized under new executives who sources said are expected to soon announce additional organizational changes.
Abrams, who worked at eight different firms in the first decade of his securities career, according to BrokerCheck, was featured at a 2017 Barron’s summit for brokers on a panel addressing “best practices and lessons learned on managing teams, clients and investments in an unpredictable market.”
His BrokerCheck history has a single disclosure of a complaint from a customer about an unsuitable recommendation. Wells, which specified in its U5 filing that Abrams’ discharge was “unrelated to the securities business,” denied the customer complaint.
—Jed Horowitz contributed to this story.