Ex-Merrill Star Tom Buck Petitions for Early Prison Release
Former Merrill Lynch best-in-state broker Thomas J. Buck has petitioned for compassionate early release from his 40-month prison sentence for churning client accounts, according to a motion filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Indiana.
He has served 19 months of his term at a minimum security facility in Indianapolis, and is scheduled to be released in January 2022.
Buck has been a “model prisoner” who takes yoga classes, has raised a puppy to be a service dog and is a clerk in the prison labor program, his court petition said. He also has participated in a prison course on residential re-release among other classes, it said.
The early-release request in court follows an April petition with the federal Bureau of Prisons. He has not received a response to one made last month after U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the bureau to prioritize early release of older convicts in Ohio, Connecticut and Louisiana prisons where Covid-19 outbreaks were virulent, according to this week’s filing.
Buck’s earlier request did not qualify for the order’s requirement that eligible prisoners must have served at least 50% of their terms or be within 18 months of their scheduled release date.
The issue of early release made headlines on Wednesday when Paul J. Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, won transfer from a western Pennsylvania prison where he was serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence for fraud after citing pandemic concerns.
The Securities and Exchange Commission barred Buck from the brokerage industry in 2018 after ordering him to disgorge $2.56 million of excessive commissions.
The former broker, who had worked at Merrill for all but three months of his 33 years as a broker, pled guilty to the churning charges and to intentionally failing to inform clients about fee-based accounts that may have proved less expensive than commission accounts.
Buck’s large team was managing about $1.3 billion for around 800 household accounts, according to Barron’s, which had ranked him as its top broker in Indiana from 2012 through 2014. The advisor was an avid golfer who helped a local country club win designation as host of a major PGA championship, but lost his club membership after accusations of cheating years before he was tossed from the industry, a source told AdvisorHub.
Since discharging Buck in April 2015, Merrill has reached settlements valued at $5.4 million with 31 of his customers. Buck briefly worked at RBC Wealth Management in Indianapolis after leaving Merrill, but has not been registered with Finra since mid-2015, according to his BrokerCheck history.