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Star broker banned for stealing millions from aging lover [Cayman property questioned]

By Kevin Dugan From New York Post

Ami Forte AP

A former star financial broker who got accused of stealing millions of dollars from the aging, demented co-founder of the Home Shopping Network has been banned from the industry.

Ami Forte — who was ranked as Barron’s top female financial adviser from 2010 to 2012, reportedly with $2 billion in assets — was barred from ever managing money again after it was found she had made $9 million in bogus fees during a years-long affair with her now-dead lover, HSN co-founder Roy Speer, according to a financial watchdog.

Forte, 62, and her former employee Charles Lawrence had made thousands of unnecessary trades as she churned Speer’s account from 2010 to 2012, when the TV-shopping tycoon was hospitalized for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a Monday order from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Speer had both “a romantic and business relationship” with Forte from 1998 to about 2011, according to Finra. That’s despite the fact he had shown signs of dementia starting in 2009, the watchdog found. When he died in 2012 at 80, he was confined to a wheelchair and was wearing diapers, according to documents.

“Churning the account of an elderly customer who suffered from severe cognitive impairment is an egregious violation of the high ethical standards to which Finra holds all associated persons,” said Jessica Hopper, acting head of Finra’s enforcement department.

Forte didn’t admit or deny any wrongdoing as part of the settlement with Finra.

“She has no intention of getting back into the industry and there’s no real point to her contesting this thing,” Robert Pearls, her lawyer, told The Post.

Forte, an ex-financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in the Tampa, Fla., area was once one of the most visible women in finance. But lawyers for Speer’s estate claim she managed far less than the reported $2 billion. Likewise, an attorney for Forte said the total assets she managed weren’t much more than the several hundred million in Speer’s accounts.

The claims by Finra come more than four years after Speer’s widow, Lynnda, filed a claim against Forte and Morgan Stanley seeking $400 million plus attorney’s fees for 12,000 unauthorized trades in her husband’s account — and pocketed $40 million along the way.

Morgan Stanley settled the claim the following year for $34 million, in an agreement in which Forte and another bank manager were found jointly liable. Forte was fired soon after.

Forte is suing Morgan Stanley for wrongful termination and claims that she was not responsible for the trading in Speer’s account.

“Ms. Forte’s claims overlook the fact that she was already adjudicated as jointly liable for the award based on her conduct,” Christine Jockle, a bank spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Speer’s widow is also suing her over a property in the Cayman Islands that she claims Forte had wrongfully transferred to a trust she controlled. Forte denies she did anything wrong.

Lawrence didn’t return a request for comment.

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