By definition, a broker is liable for making unauthorized trades without the customer’s prior authorization. Absent written discretion, it is a violation of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5, as promulgated thereunder, to effect transactions in customer accounts without their prior authorization or consent. See, e.g. Caiola v. Citibank, 295 F.3d 312 (2d Cir. 2002)(“claims under Rule 10b-5 arise when brokers purchase or sell securities on their clients’ behalf without specific authorization.” Saxe v. E.F. Hutton & Co., Inc., 789 F.2d 105, 112 (2d Cir. 1986); Armstrong v. McAlpin, 699 F.2d 79, 90-92 (2d Cir. 1983)( “By definition, a broker who is liable for making unauthorized trades makes them without the customer’s authorization”); Nilsen v. Prudential-Bache Sec., 761 F. Supp. 279, 289-90 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).
Customers also have a duty to review securities purchase and sale confirmations and review their securities accounts. If a stockbroker has placed unauthorized transactions in a customer account, the customer under most circumstances has a duty to act, or a duty to complain, or else generally, the customer may be deemed to have ratified these transactions, with actual or imputed knowledge, by doing nothing. Under such circumstances, a customer’s damages may be limited to the time they knew or should have known about the unauthorized transactions.
However, the rules do not contemplate de facto discretion, or the acquiescence to a pattern of discretionary trading without a formal trading authority. It is an actionable violation of the rules and is generally indicative of other bad or wrongful conduct.
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