Merrill Lifer Fired After Undisclosed Outside Business Allegations, Related Client Suit
Merrill Lynch fired a 26-year lifer in Miami, Florida, following allegations that the advisor participated “in a financial arrangement with a client and failed to disclose outside business activity,” according to a termination U5 form that the wirehouse filed with regulators this week.
That lawsuit, filed in 2020 by Eduardo Tarajano, Sr., alleges that Merrill failed to supervise Sonville, who persuaded them starting in 2015 to invest almost $5 million, much of it from a trust set for their retirement, in a Key Biscayne liquor store that ultimately sold in 2020 for $585,000.
The lawsuit also alleges that either Sonville or his spouse held an undisclosed interest in the liquor store, which resulted in payments to them of approximately $70,000. Sonville also allegedly worked closely with Tarajano’s son, who received an ownership stake in the store, to “pilfer the accounts Merrill Lynch was managing” and Sonville’s cousin received a commission for the liquor store sale, the lawsuit said.
In November 2020, a U.S. District Court in Miami granted Merrill’s motion to compel Tarajano to arbitrate his claims and stayed the litigation.
Sonville, who began as a full-time advisor at Merrill in 1995, is no longer registered to represent a broker-dealer, according to his BrokerCheck record. He did not immediately return a request for comment for this story sent through social media.
A Merrill Lynch spokesman declined to provide any comment beyond referring to the U5 language.
On his BrokerCheck record, Sonville has listed as a disclosure the 2020-filed Tarajano claim, which is described as based on “an unsuitable investment recommendation and engaging in an undisclosed outside business activity from 2015 until 2020,” with $4 million in requested damages.
He also has listed on the same record a 1998-filed claim by William H. and Geraldine Scherer based on allegations their requested trade was not made, triggering more than $10,000 in damages–a claim ultimately settled for $6,000. In Sonville’s comments about the disclosure, he denies receiving the order from the customers, who he alleged did not raise the claim in a timely manner, but said he agreed to offer the settlement amount “purely as a business decision.”