Firing of Billion-Dollar Broker Sends Warning on Work-from-Home Compliance
A termination notice Morgan Stanley filed this week against a billion-dollar Florida broker is a warning for brokers that just because the dress code is relaxed in a home office, the rules still apply.
Richard Altieri, a 31-year Morgan Stanley veteran who had been generating around $4 million in annual revenue, was discharged by the firm for a number of operational issues including “use of personal email to receive and print confidential firm information during the pandemic,” according to a copy of the U5 filing on his BrokerCheck record.
Altieri, who joined Raymond James & Associates on February 22, just over a week after his official termination date from Morgan Stanley, did not return a call for comment.
Firms have 30 days after the termination to file their U5 notices, which are often the product of negotiation between the firms and the broker’s lawyer. Altieri’s lawyer, James D. Sallah of Sallah Astarita & Cox in Boca Raton, Florida, declined to comment.
Most firms have had to adjust some compliance measures, including permitting at-home printing, in the pandemic era, but Altieri’s use of personal email and the type of material that was printed seemed to trigger alarms in his case. Firms have also been stepping up supervision and monitoring as their sales force has been working out of traditional offices, according to lawyers.
“Morgan Stanley has become more difficult with the way it has been treating what I would call minor infractions that do not involve client harm,” said Thomas B. Lewis, a New Jersey-based lawyer who was not familiar with Altieri’s case. “Often an advisor is printing something or sending a personal email because it may be easier for them to use it in a client presentation from their home office, but it doesn’t mean they are doing something wrong.”
A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley did not immediately return a request for comment on the filing or its enforcement practices.
Morgan Stanley, like other large brokerage firms, has not given guidance on what the post-pandemic remote work environment will look like or whether it will require brokers to return to the office. Raymond James Private Client Group President Scott Curtis said in a call with recruiters last month that the firm is mulling a scenario with more flexible work arrangements long term.
A source familiar with matter said that the restrictions on communications with third parties was related to cases where the broker may have discussed an account with the spouse of a customer when the spouse’s name was not listed on the account. The complaints were tied to earlier issues in Altieri’s career, the person said.
Altieri’s BrokerCheck report shows four client disputes that had occured between 2005 and 2011. The latest was closed without any result, while three others from 2005, 2006 and 2009 settled for a combined $28,000.