Securities and Bank Litigation

Tom’s first job as an attorney was in the insurance defense department of Halloran & Sage in Hartford, CT. Tom’s goal was to become a civil trial attorney, and while still in law school he was advised that the best way to get experience and training as a civil trial attorney was through insurance defense work. Tom’s plan from the beginning, however, was to use the training and experience from that first
job to go out on his own and eventually open his own law firm.

One of Tom’s colleagues at Halloran & Sage, knowing his plans, introduced Tom to the opportunity to head up litigation at a small boutique law firm – Woolf, Scibilia & Cugno – Brian Woolf was the former Commissioner of Banking for the State of Connecticut. In 1990, Tom became the head of litigation at the firm of Woolf, Scibilia & Cugno, which was Tom’s introduction to Banking and Securities Litigation. Tom’s path to securities and banking litigation fulfilled one of his long-held career ambitions to handle cases against banks.

“My attitude towards the banking industry dates back to discussions I had with my father as a teen, wherein he recounted to me his own negative experiences with banks. Later as a college student holding down three jobs to help pay my way, I had my first negative experience with a bank. I had opened a savings account at a bank near campus, at a time when I had to count every dollar. I was later shocked to notice on
one of my monthly statements that the bank had levied several charges against my account. My interactions with the bank that followed cemented my own conviction against the banking industry.

When I went to the bank for an explanation of the charges to my account, I was told that my ATM withdrawals from the account had exceeded my monthly maximum withdrawals for the account, such that each withdrawal above the maximum had resulted in the bank levying a charge against the account. I stated that there was no such limitation on withdrawals when I opened the account months earlier, to which the bank’s representative responded, in effect, that the small print in my account agreement allowed the bank to unilaterally amend the terms of the agreement, by including a notice of the amendment along with my monthly statement.

In my first experience advocating for the rights of the public against the banking industry, I pointed out to the bank’s representative that in maintaining a savings account, I was, in effect, loaning my money to the bank for which the bank was suppose to pay me interest. I further informed the bank’s representative that the bank had charged me more for the money that I had deposited with the bank than it could have legally charged me if it had instead loaned the money to me, under the State’s usury laws against excessive interest. I also asked the bank’s representative to explain to me what would prevent the bank from issuing a unilateral amendment to my account that indicated if I made more than one withdrawal from the account during a month, it could charge an arbitrary amount against the account would, in effect, take
all of my money.

This latter question completely stumped the representative, where it also appeared from his expression that my suggestion sounded like a good idea.

When I related this experience to my college friends, I somewhat jokingly told them that someday I would have my own law firm, and there would a sign outside our building stating, “We Sue Banks for Free!”

So when I was later asked to handle the litigation for a law firm that was headed up by Connecticut’s former Banking Commissioner, I viewed it as fate. My affiliation with Woolf, Scibilia & Cugno came to an end in 1992, but the banking and securities clients I represented during those two years jump-started my career ambition of going after the bad boys of Wall Street. When I left the firm to start up a new law firm of my own, we never did put out a “We Sue Banks for Free!” sign, but going
after the abuses of the banking industry did become the centerpiece of my legal practice.”

The case that led to Tom acquiring a national reputation in securities litigation was Levine v. Advest, which involved an elderly Jewish philanthropist, Gabriel Levine, who invested millions of dollars of his own money, as well as millions that he had gifted to various charities, with the defendant investment firm – Advest, Inc. Levine believed these funds were being managed conservatively, but in reality Levine’s personal and charitable accounts were highly leveraged by risky options contracts.

Where the claims against Advest were initially rejected by a judge of the Superior Court, Tom convinced the Connecticut Supreme Court to reverse that decision in Levine v. Advest, Inc., 244 Conn. 732 (1998). Tom successfully recovered millions for Levine and the beneficiaries of his charitable donations, which included Yeshiva University, Touro College, Beth David Synagogue, and the Rabbinical Council of America.

Levine was the first of many clients for whom Tom has recovered investment losses totaling in the millions, but he treats all of his cases with the same focus and intensity, whether his clients’ investment losses total in the millions or the thousands. With repeated successes in recovering investment losses for clients, Tom’s reputation grew to where he was hired to represent investors as far away as Florida, Texas and California.

Tom’s expertise in securities cases was such that he was regularly asked to speak on various subjects at the Connecticut Banking Commission’s Annual Securities Forum. And ultimately Tom was invited to join the Connecticut Banking Commission’s Security Advisory Council, providing advice directly to the Banking Commissioner on matters affecting Connecticut consumers.

Tom has also been asked to lecture on securities matters by various bar associations, including the Connecticut Bar Association and Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association. Tom has also been interviewed by news programs concerning securities matters of public interest, including for example the Insider Trading case prosecuted against Martha Stewart.

One of Tom’s more noteworthy cases was featured in a book that focused upon some of Wall Street’s more notable scandals – Financial Serial Killers of Wall Street: Inside the World of Wall Street Hustlers, Swindlers and Con Men. And Tom has helped Connecticut investors pursue recoveries against some of Wall Street’s more notorious villains, including Bernie Madoff and Jordan Belfort – famously portrayed by Leonard DiCaprio in the Movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

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