A broker typically earns a portion of the commissions or other fees on each purchase or sale of securities that the brokerage firm makes for an investor. When a broker engages in excessive buying and selling (i.e., trading) of securities in a customer’s account without considering the customer’s investment goals and primarily to generate commissions that benefit the broker, the broker may be engaged in an illegal practice known as churning.
Red flags of excessive trading may include:
- Unauthorized Trading – Be alarmed if you become aware of trades in your account that you did not authorize your broker to make.
- Frequent Trading – Be wary of frequent in-and-out purchases and sales of securities that don’t seem consistent with your investment goals and risk tolerance.
- Excessive Fees – Be suspicious if the total amount of fees seems high or if one segment of your portfolio consistently generates high fees.
If you believe a broker has engaged in churning, submit a complaint in writing to the brokerage firm and to the SEC or FINRA.