Investing your money is one of those smart money moves that everyone praises. However, it doesn’t always pay off. This is aggravating and scary enough when it happens in the normal course of doing business, but it becomes downright illegal when you lose money because your investment broker did something he or she wasn’t supposed to. Yes, there are times when people lose money, not because of bad luck, but because the people they should have been able to trust lead them astray. These are the times when an investment loss should get extra scrutiny.  

Broker Had Undisclosed Conflicts Of Interest

Conflicts of interest are a major focus of the SEC’s National Exam Program. In a 2012 speech, an SEC representative discussed a few ways that conflicts of interest manifest.

The first one mentioned dealt with the sales incentives: brokers can earn a higher commission by selling preferred products. He or she might get 5% for selling one mutual fund, but earn only 2% for selling another mutual fund. This gives them an incentive to sell certain products even it doesn’t fit your situation.

Another type of conflict of interest came from investment advisors inflating the value of positions. This attracts more customers, but also advisors can also overvalue a product that is sold by a business they have a side-deal with. For instance, the SEC investigated a company called Focus Point for inflating the value of certain hedge funds when they recommended them to their clients because they had a revenue-sharing deal with the company that sold the hedge funds.

There Was Stockbroker Misconduct   

There are a number of ways that a stockbroker can misbehave. The most flagrant type of misconduct is refusing to sell a security when you specifically tell them to. This is part of manipulating stock prices, as it artificially lowers the supply of the chosen product.

Another common type of misconduct is called churning. This is when the broker trades your securities more than necessary in order to pad their paycheck. The broker gets paid a commission on every trade regardless of the outcome for you, so there is a strong temptation for them to go trade-crazy until the commissions and fees outweigh any benefit you might get out of the deal.

On a more mundane level, many states require a broker to be licensed to sell securities before they hang out a shingle. The FINRA website says that legitimate brokers will be registered with the SEC, FINRA or the state. You can check out your broker at on the FINRA Brokercheck page to see your broker’s work history.

There Was A Breach In Fiduciary Duty

Brokers are supposed to act in the investors best interest. This is called being a fiduciary. They are supposed to recommend only products that fit your financial goals and that you can afford to risk. They shouldn’t be suggesting that you make risky moves like putting all your money in one stock. They shouldn’t be trying to hide the transaction records or making trades without talking to you.


And there are some stockbrokers who simply lie. This encompasses the Ponzi scheme and other classic scams, but it can also be lying about a product. It is illegal for a broker to make misleading statements about a product or fail to tell you something you need to know about a product while selling it to you. But that doesn’t stop some brokers from doing things such as say that they have ‘confidential information’ that guarantees that buying a certain stock now will double your returns or similarly sketchy things.

Every situation is unique, but if you feel that your broker might have bent the law, you can contact Aiman-Smith & Marcy. We’re a boutique law firm that focuses on employment law, consumer fraud, and class action lawsuits.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986