Morgan Stanley Reels in Another Merrill Fort Lauderdale Team
A Merrill Lynch Florida team generating $3 million in annual revenue has jumped to Morgan Stanley, adding to a list of departures in the Fort Lauderdale market over the past year, according to a source familiar with the move.
Adornato, who moved August 13, said he had known the local Morgan Stanley manager, Mark Boersma, for several years but had been unwilling to move his practice until recently when he began to feel that the push to sell customers on Bank of America products had diverted attention from managing their investments.
“I’m excited to be back,” Adornato, a 26-year industry vet, said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for my team to refocus on the wealth management business.”
His move follows the same path as at least three other million dollar-plus Merrill Fort Lauderdale teams in the past year. In June, a group led by Andrew Kahng and Ryan Thieme left to join Morgan Stanley’s 350 East Las Olas branch, according to their BrokerCheck records.
The two had been generating around $2 million in annual revenue, according to a source familiar with the move, which was not previously reported. Neither Kahng, who had been registered with Merrill for all of his 21-year career nor Thieme, who started as a broker at Merrill five years ago, according to BrokerCheck, returned a call for comment.
In May, Ziad Habayeb took his $1.4 million team from Merrill to the same Morgan Stanley branch, and in September last year, Morgan Stanley hired the nine-person Foreman-Cook group that had generated $3.2 million in annual revenue on around $400 million in assets at Merrill.
A spokesperson for Merrill did not immediately return a request for comment. The firm has seen a raft of departures across the country in recent years, including a number that have gone to Morgan Stanley as the wirehouse has been opening its wallet for new recruits over the past year-and-a-half.
Other firms have also targeted Merrill, including independent broker-dealer Sanctuary Wealth, which hired a $4 million Merrill group in New Jersey on Friday.
Adornato, who registered briefly as a novice broker at Mutual Service Corporation in 1993, first worked at Morgan Stanley from 1995 until 2005, according to BrokerCheck. He left in 2005 to join Oppenheimer and then moved to Merrill in 2008, according to the database. He said in the interview that he is now sitting in a suite that belonged to his former manager during his first tour at Morgan Stanley.
Morgan Stanley reported in 2005 that when Adornato left for Oppenheimer he had been under review for an allegedly improper payment he made to an investment manager for a business referral, according to BrokerCheck. Adornato said he had been exonerated of those allegations, and the incident was not an issue in his return.
The Broward County attorney’s office and New York Stock Exchange never filed charges and ultimately took no action on the allegation, which was prompted by a report from the investment manager, according to BrokerCheck.
“It’s not like U.S. law where you are innocent until proven guilty,” Adornato said, noting he may seek expungement of the mark from his record. “I clearly proved it wasn’t true and went on to have a very successful career.”
He has one other mark on his record, a 2011 customer claim that Oppenheimer settled for an unspecified amount. Adornato, who did not contribute to the settlement, denied the allegations, which related to the purchase of a Prudential variable annuity and said the company resolved the issues “for business reasons,” according to BrokerCheck.
When he started at Merrill, Adornato said he had just $18 million in assets and grew his practice to over $450 million over 13 years. Another member of Adornato’s team, David Graf, formally retired from Merrill in February after 35 years, according to his BrokerCheck and a source familiar with the practice.