Chicago-based RIA HighTower has lured away HSW Advisors, a three-man team overseeing more than $1.4 billion for 50 clients, from Merrill Lynch’s private banking and investment group.

The HSW Advisors team includes Kenneth Hoffman, Richard Steinberg and Jordan Waxman. As partners and managing directors, the trio will work out of HighTower’s New York City office

“We spent over a year with Ken, Richard and Jordan as they conducted diligence on our firm and their other options, including going fully independent,” Mike Papedis, HighTower’s Executive Vice President of Business Development, said in a statement. “They decided that it was better for them, and better for their clients, to join the nation’s leading partnership and benefit from what we’ve built.”

Hoffman has been advising wealthy families since 1981. Prior to joining Merrill Lynch in 1994, he worked at firms including Lehman Brothers and E.F. Hutton. Steinberg joined Merrill Lynch’s Private Banking and Investment Group in 2002, after spending 13 years as a wealth manager with Goldman Sachs & Co. Waxman joined Merrill Lynch in 2002, after eight years as a wealth manager with Goldman Sachs.

“After many years in large Wall Street banks, we simply wanted to deliver the most unconflicted and objective advice and service to our clients,” Waxman said in a statement. “This evolution of our practice to be independent fiduciaries is 100% about what is in the best interests of our clients.”

HSW Advisors is one of four wealth management teams to defect to HighTower so far in 2012.