Ami Forte, former Morgan Stanley VP fired over improper conduct.
Ami Forte, had long running withMorgan Stanley broker, dismissed for churning clients account – 12,000 trades worth $400m worth
Facilitated by 12-year affair with billionaire client, Roy Speer, the HSN co-founder
Wants her money and reputation back
Fired by employer, Morgan Stanley, Speer’s widow complained of fleecing
Panel awards Lynnda Speer $32.8 million, plus costs and legal fees
But Forte says ‘I want my money and good name back.’ Claims bank knew about her relationship with Roy Speer
Roy Speer, co-founder of Home Shopping Network, noted for his extramarital affairs. His widow won claim against Forte and Morgan Stanley
A dismissed area Morgan Stanley broker, a lead figure in an investment group found guilty in March by an arbitration panel of charges ranging from elder exploitation and breach of fiduciary duty to unauthorized trading and churning a wealthy client’s accounts and unjust enrichment, wants her reputation and compensation back.
Ami Forte, the former prominent Morgan Stanley broker who handled hundreds of millions of dollars for Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer, has filed a multimillion-dollar securities arbitration case against Morgan Stanley saying the company unjustly fired and penalized her. She says the basis for the arbitrator’s decision was Morgan Stanley’s conduct after she was no longer managing the Speer investment accounts.
Her claim was filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. This is the same organization whose three-person arbitration panel ruled two months ago against Forte, Morgan Stanley and others working for the Wall Street brokerage in a claim brought by Roy Speer’s widow, Lynnda Speer. That panel awarded Lynnda Speer $32.8 million, plus costs and legal fees, in a case that lasted from January 2015 to February 2016 and involved 142 hearing sessions spanning 70 days, 35 witnesses, and boxes of evidentiary exhibits.
Forte had become romantically involved with Roy Speer for most of the time she was handling the investment of his fortune. Speer died in 2012 at 80 years of age.
Ami Forte – ‘Iwant my money and reputation back’
40-year-old Stockbroker, Ami Forte’s affair with Roy Speer, co-founder of St. Petersburg’s Home Shopping Network, began in the late 1990s. Speer, among the richest men in Tampa Bay, was in his latter 60s with a long reputation for extra-marital affairs.
Soon after securing Speer’s personal brokerage business, worth almost $200 million, Forte moved from Bank of America to Morgan Stanley, with the lucrative Speer’s account.
For much of Speer’s remaining years, he met with Forte, often weekly in the afternoon, in a house he kept for entertainment purposes, apart from his life at home with wife. As Speer aged, he would get upset if he did not see Forte, making her role in the relationship all the more important while Morgan Stanley seemingly milked the Speer account with a high volume of trades and big dollar commissions.
The affair lasted nearly a dozen years, including the last few when Speer’s health and mental capacity required him to wear a diaper and tests revealed memory gaps and his struggle to perform simple math.
But Speer’s accounts, still controlled by Forte,was still trading heavily. In the last five years of his life, Speer’s account saw 12,000 transactions that generated nearly $40 million in commissions.
After Speer, 80, died in 2012, his widow Lynnda, gained full control of her husband’s brokerage account and took issues with the excessive churn that had occurred while Speer’s health had deteriorated. She hired Tampa Bay veteran securities lawyer Guy Burns, who had represented consumers in a financial case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.
Lynnda Speer wanted to try and recoup the losses and punish the greed she saw exercised by Forte, her husband’s ex-mistress, and a Morgan Stanley firm that did effectively nothing to police her financial actions.
The matter was setteled last week with a a 3-person arbitration panel ruling that Morgan Stanley, Forte and Morgan branch manager Terry McCoy were guilty of elder exploitation, breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, unauthorized trading and churning Roy Speer’s accounts, along with negligence, negligent supervision and unjust enrichment.
The panel awarded Lynnda Speer $32.8 million, plus costs and legal feels likely to be several million more.
Forte and another broker who worked with her were fired by Morgan Stanley days after the March FINRA ruling. Forte had worked at Morgan Stanley for 16 years, She says her dismissal prevented her from receiving millions in deferred compensation and other benefits.
“It’s just not right,” Forte told the Associated Press in an interview. “I have been a loyal employee, I loved that company. I’ve done everything for them. When times were tough, I rallied the troops.”
Forte also says in her claim that she had ended her intimate relationship with Roy Speer in 2007, five years before Speer’s death and prior to his mental deterioration. She also says she was not handling his money in the latter years, having passed that responsibility on to Chuck Lawrence, another Morgan Stanley broker.
Those claims may prove challenging to prove since they appear to differ from the voluminous evidence presented during the first FINRA case brought by Lynnda Speer. Further, the final award of $32.8 million plus legal fees has already been paid by Morgan Stanley, making it difficult at best for Forte and her lawyer now to contest the findings of that extended hearing.
Forte’s own 26-page FINRA claim against Morgan Stanley states “this is a story of betrayal resulting from Morgan Stanley’s dishonorable and unjust conduct in its disparate and reprehensible treatment” of Forte.
On many occasions, at Morgan’s request, Forte’s claim states, she willingly lectured to audiences “because Morgan told her ‘we love you’ and we know you’re going to do great.”
The claim states Morgan Stanley has made a “blatant grab” for compensation Forte says the brokerage owes her while also demanding she pay for part of the $32.8 million award the company was required to make to Roy Speer’s wife and his estate. Forte’s claim also says Morgan Stanley’s reasons for her being fired, which are now cited in an industry filing, are false.
“This has resulted in embarrassment,” Forte’s claim states, because she cannot find work in the securities industry and because she has been asked to step down from prominent boards and charities in Pinellas County where she lives.
During the original FINRA arbitration involving the Speer accounts, Forte says Morgan Stanley was reassuring and supportive, refusing “to believe she had engaged in any wrongdoing.” But after the arbitration panel’s decision and multi-million dollar award to Speer’s widow, Forte says her termination by Morgan Stanley made it appear that she was guilty.
While the $32.8 million award to Roy Speer’s wife sounds large, it could have been significantly more. If punitive damages had been added, Morgan Stanley, Forte and others involved in the case could have faced an award approaching $400 million. The actual award is approximately what Morgan Stanley, Forte and others received in commissions from aggressive trading in Speer’s accounts over the last several years.
Forte’s claim states Morgan Stanley was pleased the award ended up on the small side. “Privately and in some cases publicly,” Forte’s claim states, “Morgan Stanley was exuberant about the result in the Speer arbitration” and appeared ready to offer more in settlement than the FINRA panel chose to award.
Forte told the AP that she had looked up to Roy Speer. “He was my mentor. He was an absolutely brilliant man. We were dear friends until the end.”
Forte’s new FINRA claim may face an uphill struggle to regain what the former broker says is lost.
“Ms. Forte’s stellar reputation in the investment community and the Tampa Bay area,” her claim states, “has been severely compromised.”
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