A state appellate court has upheld a $1.4 million verdict against a former Cortlandt Manor investment adviser, Tomas Leszczynski, who lost nearly all of his client’s money in day trading.
Matt Pinski of Pound Ridge had sued Leszczynski for allegedly draining nearly $6 million from his investment accounts.
“The jury’s verdict was not contrary to the weight of evidence,” a four-justice panel of the Second Appellate Division ruled Sept. 30. The finding that Leszczynski misrepresented the status of Pinski’s accounts and the nature of the investments “was supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence.”
Pinski was a high school graduate who had worked as director of security for a hotel and had no investment experience, when he inherited about $6 million from his parents in 2010.
He turned to Leszczynski, a close friend, who was a registered investment adviser and owner of Santoren Wealth Management.
Pinski claimed that Leszczynski assured him that the inheritance would be protected and would provide interest income.
Instead, he alleged in a 2015 lawsuit, Leszczynski churned through his inheritance in “egregious day trading, almost immediately losing huge amounts of money while earning fees for himself.”
Pinski claimed that Leszczynski bought and sold $220 million in securities in 2011, turning over the account about 56 times, losing $2.5 million, taking $70,000 in adviser fees and running up $40,000 in margin interest fees.
When asked about the investments, Leszczynski would say everything was fine, according to the lawsuit. In 2011, for example, Pinski wanted to buy a 54-foot Sea Ray motor yacht for $325,000, and Leszczynski allegedly assured him that his financial position enabled the purchase.
The frequent trading continued. In 2012, he bought and sold more than $42 million in securities, turning over Pinski’s funds 21 times.
Leszczynski tearfully apologized for losses that year, according to the complaint, and said he would engage in a more conservative strategy.
Pinski claimed he was told the account still had about $4 million, when it actually had less than $2 million.
In 2013, Pinski’s accountant emailed Leszczynski with the message, “STOP Trading,” the complaint stated, but trading and losses continued.
By mid-2014, Pinski’s assets had dwindled to less than $100,000.
Pinski sued Leszczynski and Santoren Wealth Management for $5 million, alleging fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty.
A jury ruled for Pinski in 2017, after a four-day trial, but put the damages at $910,000 plus 9% interest from January 2012.
Westchester Supreme Court Justice Terry Jane Ruderman approved the $1,388,501 award. Leszczynski, who has since moved to San Diego, appealed.
Leszczynski represented himself at the trial and in the appeal. He argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. But he had failed to formally ask for a directed verdict at the close of evidence, the appellate court noted, thus “implicitly conceding,” that the issue was for Ruderman to determine.
Leszczynski also claimed that jury selection and introduction of certain documents were tainted. Those issues were not raised as objections during the trial, and therefore were not matters for appellate review.
Pinski was represented by Manhattan attorneys James Keneally and Evan W. Bolla.