Former Merrill Lynch financial advisor charged in federal court with securities fraud
Alleged to have stolen millions from clients
Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh Minkler today announced federal criminal charges against a Carmel, Indiana, financial advisor for defrauding clients by charging excessive commissions. Thomas. J. Buck, 63, was charged in federal court with one count of securities fraud following an in-depth investigation by the FBI. Buck has agreed to plead guilty to the charge.
“Financial investors have a right to feel secure when entrusting oftentimes the bulk of their life’s savings to a financial advisor that the advisor will do no harm,” said Minkler. “The government worked steadfast together with its investigative FBI agents and analysts, Merrill Lynch (the defendant’s former employer), and individual investors to understand the full scope of defendant Thomas Buck’s fraud scheme. This criminal charge represents a significant undertaking representative of the type of work the citizens of this district expect, demand, and deserve.”
For over 30 years, Buck was a registered financial advisor with global investment firm Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, now a division of Bank America (Merrill Lynch), Buck counseled thousands of clients on their investments and money management.
The criminal charges unsealed today allege that, in recent years, Buck defrauded some clients by charging excessive commissions and intentionally failing to advise them of cheaper pricing options for his services. Specifically, it is alleged that Buck took discretion on certain client accounts, placing trades without client authorization, which resulted in clients paying commissions on these trades. But Buck allegedly told clients they were paying less in commissions than they actually were. Then, it is alleged that Buck intentionally failed to inform certain clients that a fee-based payment structure was available which could result in financial savings to the client, although Buck repeatedly informed Merrill Lynch compliance personnel that he had made the clients aware of the potentially cheaper pricing structure.
As a result of Buck’s fraud, it is alleged that Buck’s criminal activity caused clients to suffer a total loss of $2 million.
“These are not victimless crimes. These are crimes that can wipe out a family’s life savings and leave their financial future in ruins,” said W. Jay Abbott, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division. “That’s why the partnerships the FBI has with agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission are important to ensuring a stop is put to unauthorized and illegal activities.”
According to Assistant United States Attorneys Cynthia J. Ridgeway and Nick Linder, who are prosecuting this case for the government, Buck has agreed to plead guilty to the securities fraud change and could face up to 25 years’ imprisonment if convicted.
Contemporaneous to the unsealing of the criminal charge and Buck’s agreement related thereto, Buck has also agreed to settle with the Securities and Exchange Commission and pay approximately $5 million as part of that civil settlement.
Buck will have an initial appearance today, at 2pm in Room 243, U.S. Federal Courthouse.
Individual investors who believe they are victims of the specific fraud scheme described in this case are directed to the government’s public website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdin for more information pursuant to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3771.
Criminal charges are merely allegations and are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty in federal court.