On June 26, 2015, Lax & Neville LLP, a leading national securities arbitration law firm, won a FINRA arbitration award on behalf of two retail investors (the “Retail Investors”), through Ontonimo (OMO) Limited (“Ontonimo”), against BNP Paribas Securities Corp. (“BNPP”) for the sale and marketing of an unsuitable security to the Retail Investors. A highly sophisticated and experienced three (3) person Arbitration Panel rendered the arbitration award after a ninety-five (95) day arbitration hearing (186 hearing sessions), which is the longest customer FINRA arbitration hearing in the last twenty (20) years and the second longest ever. The Arbitration Panel awarded the Retail Investors, through Ontonimo, $16.1 million in compensatory damages, inclusive of interest. This award of compensatory damages represents 100% of the net out-of-pocket loss plus interest and is one of the largest FINRA arbitration awards of compensatory damages in a customer dispute. Significantly, in addition to that relief, after winning six (6) Motions For Sanctions and five (5) Motions To Compel, the Arbitration Panel awarded $500,000 in sanctions for attorneys’ fees for BNPP’s failure to comply with the Arbitration Panel’s various discovery orders. This is the largest amount of sanctions awarded in a customer FINRA Arbitration in at least the last ten (10) years. To view this Award, Ontonimo (OMO) Limited vs. BNP Paribas Securities Corp. – FINRA Case No. 10-04744, click here.
The single investment at issue was a Resetable Strike Equity Option Transaction, which is a highly speculative and leveraged derivative call option. BNPP recommended that the Retail Investors invest approximately $14.3 million, which is more than 60% of their investable assets, into this one unsuitable security. Because BNPP had a policy that prohibited the sale of this product to retail customers, BNPP required the Retail Investors to form a corporate entity, Ontonimo, through which the Retail Investors would purchase the investment in order to circumvent BNPP’s own compliance rules. Further, BNPP required one of the Retail Investors to become a so-called “investment advisor” for Ontonimo by mandating that he execute a sham investment advisory agreement, even though he had no prior professional financial services experience and no securities licenses. In less than one and one-half years, the Resetable Strike Equity Option Transaction became worthless and the Retail Investors lost their entire $14.3 million investment. The Retail Investors paid BNPP in excess of $2.3 million in fees and costs for this investment. BNPP further retained approximately $700,000 of the value of the Resetable Strike Equity Option Transaction after its expiration.
The Arbitration Panel’s message was clear: The Retail Investors should never have been marketed and sold this unsuitable security.