A California Superior Court has denied an investor’s appeal of a March arbitration decision, including claims that one witness was unreasonably excluded and another witness was intimidated against testifying.
The court’s ruling occurred last week, on July 3, in spite of its ruling that a petition to vacate was not filed in time for a hearing date on that day.
The investor, Jaimie Davis, a California resident, first filed her claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in February 2010, naming WFP Securities Corp., registered representative Curtis Jerome Sathre III and WFP President John Evan Schooler as respondents. In her claim, Davis requested up to $2.9 million for failed investments tied to private placements and Ponzi schemes, alleging negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract, among other causes.
The three-member FINRA arbitration panel shot down Davis’s claims in March, instead ordering her to pay $136,000 of the respondents’ costs and expert witness fees, plus 10% annual interest.
Last week, the California court ruled that Davis’s claims outlined in a petition to vacate the award were insufficient. The fact that Davis’s expert witness, Douglas Schulz, was determined to be unqualified by the panel was within their jurisdiction, the court said, and did not prevent her from calling other expert witnesses.
The California court also denied Davis’s claims that the award resulted from “undue means” after witness and fellow investor Robert Phalen was allegedly intimidated from testifying. While Phalen expressed concern about breaching the confidentiality agreement tied to a settlement, he still could have testified under an asserted privilege, the court ruled.
“[Davis] does have the right of taking an appeal and that is something she’s considering doing,” her attorney, Melinda Steuer, of Sacramento, Calif.-based practice named The Law Offices of Melinda Jane Steuer, said on Monday. A prospective appeal would go to an appellate court and would not be bound by a trial court decision, Steuer said.
Davis, for her part, declined to comment further on the case, but said she is inspired from her experiences educate other investors via a website she has created detailing her case. She also hopes to develop a system to help make sure investors have all the necessary information at the outset and help them avoid the difficulties she faced.
“Now that I’ve seen how bad it is I can work to protect everybody else from it,” Davis said.
Brandon Reif, a partner at Winget Spadafora & Schwartzberg LLP, who represented the respondents, said the case also holds a lesson for investors who plan to pursue an arbitration case.
Davis’s credibility was hurt by the fact that she also simultaneously pursued relief on the same investments in non-FINRA forums, Reif said, which is a violation of FINRA rules.
“The lesson learned is that if you really feel that you’ve been victimized by your stock broker or registered representative, you need to have faith in the system,” Reif said.
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