InvestmentNews INsider

The INsiderblog

InvestmentNews reporters offer their take on intriguing or controversial articles from around the web.

Clouds gathering over independent B-D owner Belesis

New report indicates FBI, SEC and Finra are all taking a look

Feb 7, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

By Bruce Kelly

The future of independent broker-dealer owner and media darling Anastasios “Tommy” Belesis appears extremely cloudy.

His firm, John Thomas Financial, is being investigated by the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., according to a report in Thursday's New York Post.

Mr. Belesis did not return calls Thursday to answer questions about the reported probe of his firm, which is headquartered on Wall Street and overlooks the New York Stock Exchange.

The scope of the alleged inquiry into John Thomas Financial is not clear. One allegation is that FBI agents have asked whether the firm's brokers told prospective buyers of penny stock that celebrity television host Regis Philbin had ties to the company, according to the Post.

Finra spokeswoman Nancy Condon, SEC spokeswoman Florence Harmon and FBI spokesman Martin Feely all declined to comment.

What is certain is that Mr. Belesis has had an unusual Wall Street career and would like the public to believe that JTF's executives and brokers are cast more in the mold of Warren Buffett than if Gordon Gekko.

And while he enjoys celebrity and the limelight, his television prospects are in doubt. Fox Business News spokesman Brian Lewis did not respond to calls and emails Thursday about Mr. Belesis' potential appearances on the channel, where he is a frequent guest of Neil Cavuto.

Along with his regular appearances on cable business-news shows, he did a walk-on in Oliver Stone's 2010 movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” and held a rally at John Thomas' Wall Street offices earlier that year to attempt to return pride and respect to Wall Street. In 2009, Mr. Belesis was given the Bronx GOP Man of the Year Award by Rudy Giuliani.

His past has also proved controversial. According to a New York Post article last April, Mr. Belesis testified in 2011 as a government witness in a case in which a childhood friend had been charged in a triple homicide. During the trial, Mr. Belesis told the jury he had been involved with marijuana and stealing cars when he was a teenager — almost 20 years earlier, according to the Post.

Mr. Belesis also has a scuff-marked history in the securities industry.

S.W. Bach & Co. fired him in 2005 because of an “inaccurate representation of identity to customer,” according to Mr. Belesis' record on Finra's BrokerCheck system. In 2001, a client sued him and a firm where he had worked for $750,000 for churning. A Finra arbitration panel later awarded the client $259,000. Mr. Belesis and other firms he's worked for have settled two other Finra arbitration claims totaling nearly $100,000, Finra records show. He paid $46,000 as his share of the settlements.

In an interview with InvestmentNews in 2010, Mr. Belesis brushed aside the S.W. Bach firing, saying that the firm was essentially making a grab for the office of brokers he controlled. Like other brokers of that era, he blamed fallout from the tech market crash as provoking frivolous client lawsuits.

Since then, John Thomas' Finra record has sprouted blemishes stemming from failures to disclose fees to clients about transaction charges.

The Arkansas Securities Department fined John Thomas $25,000 last year for allegedly not properly disclosing to clients handling fees for stock orders. The Connecticut Banking Department fined the firm $20,000 over similar failures on fee disclosures, and Finra fined it $275,000 for “postage and handling” violations.

It is also clear that John Thomas is connected with GunnAllen Financial Inc., the independent broker-dealer whose sales of fraudulent private placements preceded its spectacular failure in 2010.

John Thomas' head of investment banking, Avi Mirman, and compliance consultant, Rick Nummi, both worked at GunnAllen. The former, who joined the firm last month, worked for GunnAllen in 2005 and 2006. The latter joined this winter after being with GunnAllen from 2003 to 2005.

In 2006, Finra precursor NASD suspended Mr. Nummi for two months and fined him $45,000 for allegedly failing to maintain and enforce supervisory procedures to oversee unauthorized trading by the firm's reps.

Mr. Belesis seems to have some explaining to do. His next appearance on television or film should be a good one.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Upcoming Event

Mar 13



InvestmentNews is honoring female financial advisers and industry executives who are distinguished leaders at their firms. These women have advanced the business of providing advice through their passion, creativity, inclusive approach and... Learn more

Featured video


When can advisers expect an SEC fiduciary rule proposal and other regs this year?

Managing editor Christina Nelson and senior reporter Mark Schoeff Jr. discuss regulations of consequence to financial advisers in 2018, and their likely timing.

Recommended Video

Path to growth

Latest news & opinion

Cutting through the red tape of adviser regulation is tricky

Don't expect a simple rollback of rules under the Trump administration in 2018 — instead, regulators are on pace to bolster financial adviser oversight.

Bond investors have more to worry about than a government shutdown

Inflation worries, international rates pushing Treasuries yields higher.

State measures to prevent elder financial abuse gaining steam

A growing number of states are looking to pass rules preventing exploitation of seniors.

Morgan Stanley reports a loss of advisers after exiting the protocol for broker recruiting

The firm said it lost 47 brokers in the fourth quarter, the most in any quarter of 2017.

Morgan Stanley's wealth management fees climb to all-time high

Improvement reflect firm's shift of more clients into fee-based accounts priced on asset levels, which boosts results as markets rise.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print