Morgan Stanley reaches $1 million settlement with Massachusetts over high-pressure sales contest

The contest involved persuading customers to take out securities-based loans in which they borrowed against the value of their portfolios

Apr 12, 2017 @ 3:15 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

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Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $1 million to Massachusetts to settle a case involving a high-pressure sales contest among its financial advisers to encourage clients to borrow money against their brokerage accounts.

From January 2014 until April 2015, the firm ran two different contests involving 30 advisers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The goal was to persuade customers to take out securities-based loans in which they borrowed against the value of the securities in their portfolios, with the securities serving as collateral.

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin charged that Morgan Stanley encouraged its advisers to cross sell and failed to follow its own internal rules against sales contests, which he said violated the firm's fiduciary duty to its clients.

The firm did not admit or deny the charges in the settlement, which was signed April 7 and posted online this week.

"Morgan Stanley is pleased to resolve this matter with the Massachusetts Securities Division," spokeswoman Christine Jockle said a statement. "The order contains no finding of fraudulent activity or that any client took a loan that was unsuitable or unauthorized."

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