Two years after she was fired by Morgan Stanley, Ami Forte has been hired as the new head of business development at Pinnacle Investments.
Forte lost her job at the wirehouse when an arbitration panel ordered her, her branch manager and Morgan Stanley to pay $38 million to the estate of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer in 2016. Lynnda Speer, the entrepreneur’s widow, argued that the estate had been harmed by unauthorized trading, churning and elder abuse.
Separately, FINRA said on Jan. 25 that, “its preliminary decision is that disciplinary action should be brought against Forte” concerning potential violations of rules tied to excessive trading, suitability and high standards of commercial honor, according to her BrokerCheck records.
Forte, though, maintains that she engaged in no wrongdoing and did not trade in the Speers’ accounts being investigated by regulators. At Morgan Stanley she had $2 billion in assets under management, was a member of the Chairman’s Club for 15 consecutive years and reached No. 1 on Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors list two years in a row. She was also the first female FA to be named managing director of the firm.
In issuing its press release and gushing over her accomplishments, Pinnacle seemed to say that it is has no problem with the legal, compliance and other issues that have put Forte in the spotlight.
The ex-Morgan Stanley rep “has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to her clients’ best interests,” according to Elizabeth Bartlett, chief business development officer at Pinnacle’s parent company, Pinnacle Holding Company, in a statement. “As is our policy with any potential new hire, we conducted extensive due diligence and found that Ami’s professional track record and dedication to clients and her community were a perfect match for Pinnacle’s service‐focused culture.”
Forte has said that she and Speer had an affair for about 10 years. During this time, the client’s account totaled $150 million to $200 million, about 10% of The Forte Group’s assets under management. Ultimately, the fixed income account brought Speer a net gain of $24 million.
The 2016 arbitration award focused on alleged churning in the Speer account; specifically, about 12,000 unauthorized trades generating nearly $40 million in commissions paid to Forte.
But Forte had argued she had given up trading authority in the account in late 2007, two years before the period when the 12,000 trades were made.
In the mind of Pinnacle executives, Forte is an asset to its business.
“We are thrilled to have a top industry advisor like Ami join our team,” said Pinnacle CEO Ryan York, in a statement. “Having previously worked at several global firms, she brings additional high‐level experience that will contribute to our growth strategy by providing sound, knowledgeable and tailored financial advice to clients in the Tampa area and beyond.”