Judge decides firm mishandled elderly man’s assets

A judge’s tentative decision has a now-defunct Chico stock brokerage and its office manager paying $76,000 in damages after an elderly man lost life savings he’d invested there. Next week, the judge will set a trial date to consider how much the brokerage will be ordered to pay in punitive damages.

Charles Ferrier of Chico claimed losses after First Associated Securities Group broker Bill Trueman allegedly “churned” stocks, quickly buying and selling Ferrier’s holdings in a failed attempt to maximize profits. His $60,000 investment dwindled to $20,000 within a year.

The defendants contended that no wrongdoing took place.

Judge Steven Howell’s decision, handed down Sept. 10 in Butte County Superior Court, found that churning did indeed take place and “the stock trading was excessive.” Typically brokers make a commission every time stocks are bought or sold. Since Bryson was supposed to oversee Trueman, the decision reads, he and then-FASG President Carl Martellaro “violated federal rules and their own policy manual by failing to properly supervise the account.”

In March, Martellaro, who is Bryson’s half-brother, paid out a $5,000 settlement in return for being dismissed from the suit. The plaintiff’s attorney, Joseph Earley of Paradise, had asked that Trueman be dismissed because he was being cooperative and lacked funds to pay in the event of a decision against him anyway.

Earley said that while he’s pleased the decision came down in his client’s favor, he hopes he can actually collect on the award, since FASG no longer exists as such and the firm is already on the hook for fines, settlements and judgments arising from other cases nationwide.

Ken Baker, FASG and Bryson’s Chico attorney, did not return a call for comment by press time.