Published On: Thu, Jun 13th, 2024

Understanding Unauthorized Trading: Insights from Attorneys

Unauthorized trading can be a major concern for investors, leading to financial losses and legal issues. Understanding its nuances is essential. Securities law attorneys offer critical insights into unauthorized trading, shedding light on its various aspects and providing guidance for investors. This article delves into unauthorized trading, exploring its definition, common types, legal considerations, and strategies for prevention and recourse.

Defining Unauthorized Trading

Unauthorized trading involves the buying or selling of securities by a broker without the investor’s explicit authorization. This can manifest in different ways:

  • Excessive Trading (Churning): Trading excessively to generate commissions.
  • Trading Without Consent (Discretionary Trading): Making trades without prior investor approval.
  • Trading Outside Investor Objectives (Unsuitability): Making trades that do not align with the investor’s goals or risk tolerance.

Such actions violate the trust between broker and investor and breach regulatory standards designed to protect investors.

Common Types of Unauthorized Trading


Churning involves excessive trading in a client’s account primarily to generate commissions for the broker. This practice results in unnecessary transaction costs and can diminish the overall value of the investor’s portfolio. It’s a breach of the broker’s duty to act in the best interests of the client.

Discretionary Trading

Discretionary trading occurs when a broker makes trades without obtaining prior approval for each transaction. Some discretion might be allowed with the client’s explicit consent, but excessive or unauthorized discretionary trading can lead to legal disputes. It’s crucial for investors to be aware of the extent of discretion they grant to their brokers.


Brokers must recommend investments that align with their clients’ financial objectives, risk tolerance, and investment horizon. Unsuitability arises when a broker recommends investments inappropriate for the client’s financial situation or goals. This includes recommending high-risk investments to conservative investors or low-yield investments to those seeking growth.

Legal Considerations

Investors who fall victim to unauthorized trading have several legal avenues to seek compensation for their losses. Securities laws impose fiduciary duties on brokers, requiring them to act in their clients’ best interests and obtain proper authorization before making trades. When these duties are breached, investors can pursue various legal avenues:

FINRA Arbitration

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) provides a forum for resolving disputes between investors and brokerage firms or individual brokers. Investors can file a claim with FINRA seeking damages for unauthorized trading. The arbitration process allows for a swift and efficient resolution, often making it a preferred option for many investors.

Civil Litigation

In cases of egregious misconduct or significant financial losses, investors may choose to pursue civil litigation against the responsible parties. Civil lawsuits can result in monetary damages, injunctions, or other remedies aimed at compensating the investor for their losses and holding the wrongdoers accountable. This route can be more complex and time-consuming but may be necessary in severe cases.

Regulatory Enforcement

Regulatory authorities like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and FINRA actively monitor the securities industry for compliance with regulations and investigate allegations of misconduct. Investors can report instances of unauthorized trading to these authorities, prompting investigations and potential disciplinary actions against the offending brokers or firms. This can result in sanctions and penalties for the wrongdoers.

Strategies for Prevention and Recourse

Thorough Due Diligence

Before entrusting their funds to a broker or investment advisor, investors should conduct thorough due diligence. Verify the broker’s credentials, reputation, and regulatory history. Reviewing disciplinary records, customer complaints, and regulatory filings can help investors identify red flags and avoid potential risks. Proper research is a critical first step in protecting investments.

Clear Communication

Establishing clear communication channels and setting explicit guidelines with your broker is essential. Clearly articulate your investment objectives, risk tolerance, and expectations regarding trading activity. Regularly review account statements and trading activity to detect any unauthorized transactions promptly. Effective communication can prevent misunderstandings and unauthorized actions.

Documentation and Record-Keeping

Maintain detailed records of all communications and transactions with your broker. Keep account opening documents, trade confirmations, and correspondence. These records are crucial evidence in the event of a dispute and can support your case in legal proceedings or regulatory investigations. Good record-keeping practices can make a significant difference if issues arise.

Stay Informed

Stay informed about the latest developments in securities regulations and investor protection measures. Be vigilant for any signs of unauthorized trading, such as excessive trading activity or unexpected losses. Take prompt action to address any concerns. Being proactive and knowledgeable helps in identifying and addressing potential issues early.


Unauthorized trading poses significant risks to investors, jeopardizing their financial well-being and eroding trust in the securities markets. Understanding the various forms of Unauthorized trading attorneys, recognizing the warning signs, and taking proactive measures to protect their interests are crucial steps.

Seeking guidance from experienced securities attorneys can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the complexities of unauthorized trading and pursuing legal recourse when necessary. Vigilance, clear communication, and informed decision-making are essential tools for safeguarding against unauthorized trading and preserving the integrity of the investor-broker relationship.

By implementing thorough due diligence, maintaining clear communication, keeping detailed records, and staying informed, investors can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to unauthorized trading. Protecting your investments requires ongoing effort and attention, but these strategies can help ensure that your financial interests remain secure.

About the author: Irma C. Dengler

With a BA in communications and paralegal experience, Irma Dengler decided to make the best of her writing skills. She decided to turn complicated legal matters into something more palatable for the masses. Therefore, Irma became a law communicator who writes about everyday problems so everyone can understand them and take the appropriate action. She specializes in personal injury cases, as they are more common than anyone thinks, but her areas of expertise also include civil law, criminal law, insurance-related issues, and more.

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