Mark J. Astarita is nationally recognized securities attorney, admitted to practice law before all state and federal courts in the States of New York and New Jersey as well as the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Astarita graduated cum laude from New York Law School and has practiced law primarily as a corporate and securities litigator, representing individuals and corporations in a wide variety of legal disputes, ranging from employment disputes to trade secret litigation to sophisticated securities litigation.
Mr. Astarita has concentrated his work in the area of securities regulation and litigation. During his career he has represented all stock market participants, including investors, public and private companies, stock brokers, investment advisors, compliance officers as well as their firms. His representation includes all regulatory and compliance matters related to brokerage firms, hedge funds and investment advisors including federal and state registration and examinations, court litigation, securities arbitrations, disciplinary proceedings, and regulatory investigations. A summary of Mr. Astarita’s more interesting and novel cases is contained in the document Significant Cases and Decisions. Mr. Astarita also represents investors in exceptional cases, and is one of the few attorneys to obtain (and receive payment of) a million dollar punitive damage and attorney fee award against a brokerage firm for misconduct.
Martindale-Hubbell, the most respected and impartial source of information about attorneys in the U.S., Canada and worldwide, has given Mr. Astarita their highest rating (“AV”), and have determined that his legal ability is very high to preeminent and his ethical standards are very high. An attorney in the US cannot receive a higher rating than this rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
Financial Regulatory Matters
Since 1984 Mr. Astarita has been assisting brokers and brokerage firms in their registration and compliance matters, including the startup of new broker-dealers. From incorporation through shareholder and employment agreements, and throughout the registration process with the SEC and FINRA, Mr. Astarita has assisted dozens of firms in their navigation of the web of securities rules and regulations. When firms need to expand their operations and require FINRA approval, Mr. Astarita has guided those firms through the 1017 process, working closely with the firm’s in-house staff to obtain the necessary approvals.
As the regulatory environment has become more onerous and complex, Mr. Astarita began encouraging, and assisting, brokers and financial professionals to become independent financial advisors, either through agreements with some of the nation’s top independent brokerage firms, or through the creation of registered investment advisors or private investment partnerships. These alternate vehicles can vastly improve the business operations and overhead of a smaller financial firm, while at the same time maintaining the quality of research, customer service and investor protection of a large broker-dealer.
Regulatory Enforcement Matters
Mr. Astarita represents financial professional in regulatory investigations, from the SEC, FINRA, state securities commissions, and the various commodity exchanges. Mr. Astarita is one of the few practicing attorneys to have passed the Series 7 Examination, the licensing examination for securities brokers. His 30 years of experience in investigations and enforcement proceedings have enabled him to provide invaluable assistance to his clients, not only during the actual proceedings, but in the development of a comprehensive strategy and plan for dealing with actual, and potential, enforcement proceedings. At times there is no choice but to take an enforcement proceeding to hearing, and Mr. Astarita has the skill, experience and talent to effectively represent Respondents in such hearings, even going up against FINRA with unlimited resources.
Securities Employment Issues
During his career, Mr. Astarita has represented over 60 brokerage firms and hundreds of financial professionals in their regulatory, litigation and employment issues. Mr. Astarita’s experience and knowledge of this highly specialized area of employment law enables him to provide guidance and assistance, to firms as well as professionals, in the negotiation of compensation packages and upfront loans, as well as severance agreements, promissory note settlements and restructuring, and non-compete waivers. Mr. Astarita has negotiated broker compensation agreements for individuals with every major Wall Street firm. The use of upfront bonuses, or employee forgivable loans as inducements and compensation for a broker to change firms, has a series of issues, pitfalls and dangers, for the firm, and for the broker. This experience, coupled with a continual monitoring of legal decision and trends enables him to effectively negotiate securities employment agreements for his clients.
As noted below, the transition from a brokerage firm to an investment advisory firm involves its own unique set of issues, and an entirely different regulatory environment, with different regulators, and different rules. As more and more professionals realize the advantages of using a fee-based model for the benefit of their clients, they realize the advantage of leaving the brokerage world and moving to the investment advisory side of the business. Mr. Astarita has been at the forefront of this move away from commission business and the overwhelming regulatory environment and has helped transition brokers to advisors for decades.
That same experience provides the foundation for the negotiation and resolution of employment separation agreements, waivers and modifications to non-compete agreements and promissory notes.
If the employment relationship does not go as planned, Mr. Astarita also provides representation and counsel in post-employment disputes, including severance agreements, re-negotiation of promissory notes and non-compete agreements, as well as ongoing counsel in post-termination investigations by FINRA and the SEC, as well as in litigation over the employer-employee relationship.
Securities Arbitration Proceedings
A significant portion of Mr. Astarita’s practice is in the area of securities arbitration. For over 30 years Mr. Astarita has been the attorney of record, representing customers, brokers and brokerage firms in FINRA, NASD and NYSE arbitrations, in over 600 securities arbitrations. Mr. Astarita prides himself on his dedication to his clients, and his desire to champion their cause and position. He represents clients in matters across the country, and has represented parties in proceedings held in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington DC, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, California, Louisiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Utah, and Oregon. Mr. Astarita has written extensively on the topic of customer arbitrations, and most of his articles appear at The Securities Law Home Page.
Securities Industry Knowledge
In July, 1995, Mr. Astarita created the The Securities Law Home Page, now known simply as SECLaw.com, the Internet site for information regarding United States securities and commodities law, including corporate finance, public offerings, stock broker regulation, securities arbitration and related topics. The site, which has been rated one of the Top 10 law firm web sites available on the Internet, and consistently rated “Best of the Web” by every major survey, contains original articles and commentary of interest to participants in the United States financial markets, as well as attorneys and educators. The site receives over 10,000 unique visitors a month, making it one of the most popular legal topic sites in the world.
Background and Related Information
Various media sources have relied upon Mr. Astarita for commentary on issues relating to the securities laws and online legal issues, and he has been quoted in a number of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune Magazine, Forbes Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Law Journal, Ticker Magazine, Research Magazine, Registered Representative, On Wall Street, The Recorder, Legal Times, the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Internet Compliance Reporter, Investment Dealers’ Digest, Compliance Reporter, Financial NetNews, Securities Industry Daily, the Bergen Record and the New York Post.
Mr. Astarita is often an invited speaker at industry functions, has been a regular guest on CNBC’s Power Lunch, was a member of the faculty for the 2002 Practicing Law Institute’s Securities Arbitration Seminar, has been a guest lecturer at Pace University’s Securities Arbitration Clinic, and an invited speaker at the Connecticut Securities Division’s Securities Forum 2005.
Research: Magazine. Most of his columns appear at The Securities Law Home Page. Some of those articles include: Introduction to Securities Arbitration, Introduction to the Federal Securities Laws, Registration of Investment Advisors, Hearing, Hearing, and Honoring and Enforcement of Arbitration Awards. A complete list of Mr. Astarita’s articles, papers and commentaries is available online. He is also the principal commentator at the Securities Law Blog, which is updated weekly, and is well known on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Mr. Astarita has served as the Chairman of the Legal Committee of the National Association of Investment Professionals, is active in a number of community organizations, including his membership on his local town’s Board of Adjustment, hearing and deciding zoning variances, as well as a Trustee of one of the oldest country clubs in the United States.
New York Law School, New York, New York, J.D., 1981, Cum Laude
Queens College of the City University of New York, Flushing, New York, B.A., 1978
New York County Lawyers Association
State of New York, State of New Jersey, United States Supreme Court,United States Circuit Courts of Appeals for the Second and Third Circuit, United States District Courts for the Southern, Eastern, Northern and Western Districts of New York, and the District of New Jersey