Understanding Unauthorized Trading: A Comprehensive Guide

In today’s complex financial market, unauthorized trading has become a serious concern for investors and regulators alike. Unauthorized trading occurs when a trader carries out trades without proper authorization or violates company policies, resulting in significant financial losses for both the company and its investors.

Despite the presence of strict financial industry regulatory authority and frameworks, unauthorized trading continues to occur, highlighting the importance of understanding its causes and effects.

If you have any questions about authorized trading by a financial advisor, call the investment fraud lawyers at Haselkorn & Thibaut for a free consultation.

Definition: What Constitutes Unauthorized Trading

Unauthorized trading encompasses any trade made by an employee without proper prior written authorization from the company. It can take many forms, including rogue trading, churning, and front-running unauthorized transactions. Rogue trading involves an employee making unauthorized trades that result in significant losses for the company.

Churning refers to excessive trading or buying and selling of securities by an employee to generate commissions instead of benefiting their client’s portfolios. Front running involves an employee using inside information to trade securities ahead of their clients.

The Importance of Understanding Unauthorized Trading

Unauthorized trading poses significant risks for companies operating in the financial markets. It not only results in financial losses but also damages a company member firm’s reputation and undermines investor trust.

Regulatory authorities impose fines on companies found guilty of unauthorized trades, leading to further financial losses. Therefore it is crucial that companies have robust internal controls to prevent such activities from occurring.

As investors seek greater transparency and accountability from companies, it is increasingly important for organizations to recognize that preventing unauthorized trading is not just about avoiding financial loss or legal ramifications; it is also about maintaining investor confidence in member firm through ethical actions. Understanding unauthorized trading is critical for promoting transparency and accountability within the financial market while ensuring that investors’ interests are protected against fraudulent activities carried out by rogue traders within a firm’s ranks.

Types of Unauthorized Trading

Unauthorized trading is a serious issue in financial markets, and it can take many forms. Understanding the types of unauthorized trading is crucial for investors and companies alike. Here are some of the most common types:

Rogue Trading

Rogue trading is one of the most well-known types of unauthorized trading. It occurs when a trader makes trades without authorization or exceeding authorized limits, usually resulting in significant losses for the company. Rogue traders often engage in high-risk trades to try to make large profits quickly, without considering the potential consequences.

One infamous example of rogue trading is Nick Leeson, who caused the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995 by making unauthorized trades that resulted in losses of over $1 billion. In response to this incident, many financial institutions have implemented stricter controls and oversight measures to prevent rogue trading.


Churning occurs when a broker makes excessive trades on behalf of a client to generate commissions for other broker dealers, brokerage firms or themselves. This type of unauthorized trading can harm investors by reducing their returns due to increased in transaction fees and costs and may also result in tax liabilities.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has set guidelines for brokers on how often they can trade customer accounts, without obtaining prior approval written permission from broker or clients. If brokers fail to adhere to these guidelines or engage in such account churning, they may face disciplinary action or legal consequences.

Front Running

Front running occurs when a trader takes advantage of knowledge about impending trades made by clients or other traders. For example, if a trader knows that a large buy order is about to be executed, they may purchase shares ahead of time and price them at a lower price and then sell them for purchase or sale or at a higher price once the buy order has been executed.

This type of unauthorized trading is illegal because it gives traders an unfair advantage over others in the market and can harm investors who are not privy to the same information they trade. Regulators have implemented measures to detect front running transactions, such as monitoring for suspicious trading patterns and requiring traders to report their trades in a timely and accurate manner.

Causes of Unauthorized Trading

Lack of Oversight and Controls

One of the primary causes of unauthorized trading is a lack of oversight and controls within an organization. When there are no clear lines of accountability, it becomes easier for traders to engage in unauthorized trading cases or in risky behavior without being detected.

This can occur when there is a lack of proper monitoring, supervision, or even basic reporting mechanisms in place. Additionally, a company’s management may not have adequate knowledge or experience to effectively oversee trading activities.

Incentives for Traders to Take Risks

Another cause of unauthorized trading is the potential for traders to receive large financial rewards if their trades are successful. In some cases, traders may take risks in order to increase their own compensation or bonuses without considering the consequences making discretionary trades for the company or its investors. This can be especially true if the trader is operating under a commission-based compensation structure that rewards high-risk trades.

Weak Risk Management Practices

Weak risk management practices can also contribute to either unauthorized transactions or excessive trading sometimes. If a company’s risk management policies and procedures are outdated or ineffective, it becomes easier for traders to engage in risky behavior without being detected.

For example, if there are no limits on the amount of money that can be put at risk on any one trade, a rogue trader could conduct discretionary trades that could potentially cause significant losses before anyone realizes what has happened. Additionally, if there are no checks and balances in place to ensure that trades have been properly authorized and approved according to established policies and procedures, it becomes easier for rogue traders to circumvent these controls.

Overall, companies must recognize that unauthorized trading poses significant risks that should not be taken lightly. By understanding some of the underlying causes of this type of activity – such as weak oversight and controls, incentives for traders to take risks and weak risk management practices – companies can begin working towards implementing solutions that will help prevent it from occurring in the first place.

This can include implementing stronger internal controls, conducting regular monitoring and auditing of trades and discretionary accounts, and training employees on ethical behavior. Ultimately, the key to preventing unauthorized trading is to create a corporate culture that values transparency, integrity, and accountability at all levels of the organization.

The Devastating Consequences of Unauthorized Trading

Unauthorized trading can have severe consequences for both the company and its investors. When a trader engages in unauthorized trading, they expose the company to significant financial losses. These losses occur when a trader takes positions in specific security that are too large or too risky, leading to significant market losses.

In some cases, traders may engage in unauthorized trading as part of a scheme to defraud the company or investors. Either way, the damage can be catastrophic.

The severity of financial loss from unauthorized trading depends on several factors such as market conditions at the the time and price of the unauthorized trade or transactions and how quickly management detects it. Rogue traders might try to hide their actions by falsifying records or covering up their trades.

Therefore it is important for companies to have a comprehensive monitoring system in place coupled with regular internal audits. However, even if unauthorized trading is detected early enough, the damage has already been done.

In addition to causing financial losses for the company and investors, unauthorized trading also damages the customer’s account, reputation and trust. It erodes confidence among shareholders that their investments are being managed responsibly and ethically leading to loss of business opportunities and decreased revenue streams.

When a broker dealer or trader engages in unauthorized trading, they may be violating securities laws industry rules and regulations designed to protect investors against fraud or malpractice activities. These violations federal law could lead to regulatory sanctions including fines, suspension from operating in the securities industry or even criminal prosecution.

Moreover, when an organization is caught up with regulatory notice for an incident involving rogue traders engaging in unethical behavior like unauthorized trading activities it could lead regulators interrogating deeper into the brokerage firm itself’s operations which could then result in further penalties due to poor governance practices exemplifying weak risk management controls & oversight frameworks within brokerage firm. While it may be difficult for regulators to catch every instance of rogue activity because these individuals often work hard at concealing their illicit activities through various means like hiding books, excessive transactions, etc., penalties imposed even after detection can be substantial enough to deter future acts of unethical behavior.

Preventing Unauthorized Trading

Implementing Strong Internal Controls

One of the primary ways to prevent unauthorized trading is to implement strong internal controls in brokerage firms. These controls should be designed to identify, prevent, and detect unauthorized trading before it can cause significant harm.

For example, companies should establish clear internal policies and procedures that outline the process for making trades. They should also restrict access to trading systems to only those employees who are authorized to make trades.

In addition, companies should establish a system of checks and balances that ensures that no single individual has too much power or control over the trading process. This might include requiring multiple levels of approval before a trade can be executed or implementing limits on the size and frequency of trades that can be made by individual traders per business day.

Regular Monitoring and Auditing

Another key component of preventing unauthorized trading is regular monitoring and auditing. This involves conducting regular reviews of trading activity to ensure that all trades are in compliance with company policies and regulations. Companies may also want to consider engaging an outside auditor or third-party firm to conduct these reviews, as this can provide an unbiased perspective on the effectiveness of their internal controls.

During these audits, companies should review all aspects of their trading practices, including trade entry procedures, authorization protocols, risk management processes, and post-trade activities such as settlement and reconciliation. Any issues or weaknesses identified during these audits should be addressed promptly through additional training or changes in policies and procedures.

Training Employees on Ethical Behavior

Companies must ensure that all employees involved in the trading process understand the importance of ethical behavior. This includes providing regular training on topics such as insider trading laws, conflicts of interest, proper use of confidential information, and other ethical considerations when executing trades.

By providing employees with a strong understanding of what constitutes ethical behavior when it comes to financial markets – including what actions are prohibited – companies can help to ensure that everyone involved in the trading process is working towards the same goal. In addition, by providing ongoing training and support, companies can help to reinforce the importance of ethical behavior and make it a core part of their corporate culture.


The Importance of Preventing Unauthorized Trading in Financial Markets

Unauthorized trading has been a thorn in the side of the financial markets for years. It is a high-risk activity that can lead to substantial losses for companies and investors, along with damage to reputation and trust.

Preventing it is essential not only for the financial industry but also for our economy as a whole. The impact of unauthorized trading on the economy cannot be ignored.

When large sums of money are lost, it translates into lower investment returns, higher borrowing costs, and increased volatility in the financial markets. This can have consequences far beyond just those directly involved in securities trading.

The Need for Companies to Have a Comprehensive Strategy in Place to Prevent Unauthorized Trading

Companies must prioritize preventing unauthorized trading by developing comprehensive strategies to mitigate the risks associated with this activity. Strategies should include implementing strong internal controls, regular monitoring and auditing discretionary accounts, training employees on ethical behavior, and vetting new hires thoroughly.

Additionally, companies need to foster a culture that supports ethical behavior and encourages employees to report any potential breaches or suspicious activities. This can be achieved through effective communication and training programs that promote transparency and accountability.

The Role That Regulators Play in Ensuring That Companies Adhere To These Standards

Regulators play an essential role in ensuring that companies adhere to standards designed to prevent unauthorized trading. They provide oversight through compliance reviews, examinations, and investigations into allegations of misconduct or violations of securities laws.

Regulators also work closely with industry participants on rule-making initiatives aimed at promoting transparency and accountability in securities markets. The goal is always to protect investors from fraudulent or manipulative activities while promoting fair competition among market participants.

Preventing unauthorized trading requires both proactive measures by companies themselves as well as appropriate regulatory oversight by governmental agencies. By working together towards this goal, we can help ensure the integrity of our financial markets and safeguard the interests of investors.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

Filing a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration claim with Haselkorn and Thibaut Investment Fraud Lawyers involves a straightforward process. If you suspect unauthorized trading in your brokerage account, these experienced attorneys are your reliable resource for seeking compensation for your financial losses. They have a remarkable reputation in handling complex securities arbitration matters, ensuring a robust representation for their clients.

When it comes to filing a FINRA arbitration claim, the first step is initiating consultation with Haselkorn and Thibaut. They provide an exhaustive review of your account statements and all associated documents to identify any signs of unauthorized trading. Unauthorized trading is when a broker makes trades on a client’s account without proper consent or authority. It is a violation of FINRA rules and may lead to significant financial loss for the investor. Call us today for a free consultation.

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