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Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch Private Wealth Advisor is a Fraud?

Finding the right wealth advisor can be a herculean task. There are various options available in the market from independent advisors to large corporations. But if you know which options you have to avoid, you can save yourself from making a huge mistake. One such advisor who you should definitely avoid is Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch. 

You might see him in your searches if you’re looking for a wealth advisor in New Canaan, Connecticut. He uses multiple unethical tactics to leech funds off of his clients. The following review will throw light on some of those methods so you know what you’re getting into if you consider working with him and his firm, the Brian Hetherington Group. 

Who is Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch?

Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch is a private wealth advisor and the managing director of the Brian Hetherington Group. His office is located at 2 Pine St, New Canaan, CT 06840, US and it opens from 9 AM to 5 PM on workdays. The contact number of his office is 203-972-2523. 

His firm offers a select group of individuals and families boutique-like services and customized financial strategies. Other notable people at Brian’s firm are Peter Luppino (Senior Vice President) and Carrisa Marz (Private Wealth Associate). 

The firm offers a variety of services to its clients including goal-based planning, philanthropy, digital banking, wealth structuring, trust and estate-planning strategy, family wealth planning, credit and lending services, long-term investment strategies, and more. 

Brian Hetherington has also won multiple accolades in the industry. However, many people ignore the subtle red flags present in a financial advisor because of such accolades. 

For example, very few clients of Brian would know about the legal dispute he had with one of his clients. It’s crucial to know the good and the bad of an advisor. 

I have highlighted the primary issues present in his disclosures below so you can get an idea of what he’s trying to hide from you and his other clients.

Disputes & Red Flags in the Provisions of Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch 

Giving Inappropriate Recommendations (Client Dispute)

When you’re looking for a financial advisor, it’s best practice to search for them on the FINRA BrokerCheck database. This database will tell you everything you need to know about an advisor including information about the exams they have passed, their certifications, their professional experience, and the legal disputes they have had in their career. 

The FINRA BrokerCheck profile of Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch shows one legal dispute. 

This dispute occurred in 2002 when the client claimed that she wanted to realize an 8% annual return while protecting her principal. She pointed out that the recommended investments were not appropriate. 

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There is no information on the number of damages she requested nor is there any information on why Brian Hetherington and Merrill Lynch denied this claim. Keep in mind that it’s quite common among fiduciaries to deny their client’s claim no matter how authentic it is. Another FA who used this method to deny his clients’ claims is Glen Pahnke RBC

This is why it’s vital to go through the shady provisions present in a fiduciary’s terms and conditions before you trust them with your wealth. 

Putting Clients at Excessive Risk

A prominent issue in Brian’s disclosures is that he charges performance-based fees. When a financial advisor charges you a performance-based fee, their earnings depend on how they perform in comparison to a set benchmark. 

This gives them an incentive to implement high-risk strategies, ignoring their suitability for the client’s portfolio. That’s why charging performance-based fees is heavily looked down upon in the finance industry. 

As your advisor has an incentive for putting you at higher risk, they might simply ignore your financial requirements and goals. This is a common issue among financial advisors because they might prioritize their personal finances over yours. 

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High-risk strategies rarely yield positive returns. Furthermore, they might show growth in the short term but they are harmful to long-term portfolios. Hence, if you’re looking to invest for securing long-term wealth, you should stay miles away from advisors who follow this fee structure. 

Another drawback of paying performance-based fees is that you can’t hold your advisor responsible for recommending high-risk strategies. High-risk strategies seldom work and in some cases, they result in severe losses. Unfortunately, if your portfolio suffers because of your advisor’s high-risk recommendations, you can’t do anything about it as you sign a waiver when you start your professional relationship with them. 

Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch has used this tactic in his 2002 dispute so you shouldn’t hope for a positive result if you file a dispute against him if he causes you significant losses. 

On the other hand, if the high-risk strategy works, you’ll be paying a hefty amount of fees because of the performance-based fee structure. Due to these reasons, charging performance-based fees was illegal before 1985. 

Charging 12b-1 Fees

Another prominent issue in the services of Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch is that he charges 12b-1 fees. This is a marketing fee that goes into his pocket for promoting certain investments. 

The 12b-1 fee reflects no value and only increases the cost of the investment. An SEC study found no difference between the returns of investments that charge 12b-1 fees and those that don’t. 

Did You Know?

An SEC study is an investigative study conducted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. SEC is responsible for creating awareness amongst the investors and regulating the securities market.

It concluded that the ROI of the investments that charge a 12b-1 fee is worse because their cost is significantly higher. So, when you pay this fee you’re only paying extra for getting the same returns. 

Furthermore, it’s a percentage fee so it is higher for larger portfolios. 


The predatory provisions in Brian’s disclosures show that he doesn’t care much about his clients. If you want financial advisory services in New Canaan, you should find a different advisor who truly values his client’s goals. 

There are plenty of options available so you don’t have to stick with the worst one. 

2.9Expert Score

Brian Hetherington Merrill Lynch doesn’t care about his clients. It’s evident from the multiple predatory provisions present in his terms and conditions. Due to this reason, it would be best to avoid working with him and find a different wealth advisor.

Concern for Clients
  • None
  • Faced dispute for giving unsuitable recommendations
  • Puts clients at excessive risk
  • Charges 12b-1 fees

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