The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday censured E. F. Hutton & Co. and penalized 16 present or former employes of Hutton and another firm for violations of federal securities laws in connection with options trading.
The SEC alleged that Hutton and its registered representatives violated antifraud and other provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by "making false and misleading statements and omitting to state... the risks inherent in option trading practices."
The company and the individuals named consented to sanctions imposed by the SEC -- suspension for 20 days of all options trading in three E. F. Hutton offices, and other sanctions against individuals -- but did not admit or deny the allegations.
An E. F. Hutton spokesman, however, said yesterday that the allegations of fraud were "unfounded," and came from "an overzealous investigative attitude with respect to options." But the company said it will "make appropriate monetary adjustments to certain customers" in lieu of the charges.
The SEC public administrative proceedings were officially made against E. F. Hutton & Co., 16 employes or former employes of Hutton in Fort Worth, New Orleans and New York, and Mathematical Investing Systems Inc. (a Shaker Heights, Ohio, investment adviser) and Harvey M. Salkin, president, treasurer and sole owner of Mathematical.
The overall consent agreement settles SEC staff charges that options trading by certain employes resulted in 83 customers losing more than $900,000. Further, the staff charged, excessive trading resulted in more than $548,000 in commissions to the employes.
The SEC staff alleged that some of the Hutton employes caused certain customers who could not afford the risks associated with options to enter into the purchase of such options anyway.
The SEC said the customers "could not sufficiently understand the risk, margin requirements, mechanics and other fundamental aspects of listed options trading strategies."
The order also said that some E. F. Hutton employes caused some customers to enter into options and securities transactions "which were excessive in size, frequency and resultant commissions in view of the financial resources' investment sophistication, and investment objectives of the customers involved."
It was also alleged that some customers were given false information about the performance results of their accounts in an effort to get them to invest more.
The SEC suspended several employes for varying periods of time and censured several others as part of the agreement. Public hearings were ordered in connection with SEC staff charges that three other current or former Hutton employes violated antifraud provisions.
One of those employes, a vice president and branch manager for Hutton at its Beachwood, Ohio, office, Lawrence G. Adelman, said the charges against him were unwarranted and unsupportable, and said he planned to litigate the charges and be vindicated.