What Does Churning Mean? The Illegal And Unethical Practice Of A Broker 

Posted in Markets Compliance on May 10, 2024
What Does Churning Mean?

What does churning mean? Churning is excessive trading of the assets in a customer’s brokerage account to generate commissions. Churning is an illegal and unethical activity that is subject to severe fines and sanctions by the relevant regulator. When brokers engage in the excessive buying and selling of shares or securities in the customers’ accounts without considering the goals and objectives of the customers, to generate commissions that benefit the brokers, such practices shall be churning.

What Does Churning Mean?

What Does Churning Mean?

Churning creates a conflict of interest between the broker and the customer or investor. Churning is an illegal activity because it breaks the fiduciary duty of a broker, where the broker is required to maintain trust and credibility with the client. 

Financial experience is needed to prove that churning in the stock market is the real cause of the financial losses born by the investors. Red flags should be available that suggest churning, and it is required to work with financial experts who can prove the churning, through the examination of all investment transactions. 


Brokers including security dealers must understand the restrictions against disclosing or using the personal information of the client or the customer, for their advantage. Management is required to implement the controls, identify any such practices, and take appropriate actions as per the regulatory requirements, and internal policies. Brokers are obligated to disclose material information about investments to potential investors

Misrepresenting material information in discussions, and materials are prohibited and considered fraud. Brokers and investment companies should not guarantee any security or a transaction. Making excessive claims about the securities, and shares, without any reasonable justification is strictly prohibited. There are restrictions on calling investors, to provide random investment advice or sales, to obtain a personal advantage, therefore making cold calls to the customers is prohibited. 

Most clients need the help of experienced financial consultants to determine whether a churning activity has occurred. Investors who have suffered financial losses that may not be explained by market downturns should consult financial experts

Factors To Make A Successful Claim

The plaintiff proves the following three factors to make a successful claim:

  1. Excessive account trading in light of the investor’s goals.
  2. The broker exercised control over trading in the account.
  3. There was intent by the broker to defraud or willful and reckless disregard of the investor’s interest.

Understanding Churning

Churning can lead to significant losses in a client’s account. Even if the trades are profitable, the client’s tax liability may be higher than necessary. Overtrading occurs when a broker buys and sells stocks on behalf of an investor in order to increase the commissions earned on the transactions.

A financial firm’s broker may be rewarded for placing newly issued securities underwritten by the firm’s investment banking arm in some cases. Brokers, for example, may be eligible for a 10% bonus if they purchase a certain number of shares on behalf of their clients. Such incentives may not be offered in the best interests of the investors.

Churning is difficult to detect. When the frequency of trades becomes counterproductive to the client’s investment objectives, driving commission costs higher without observable results over time, an investor may conclude that a broker has been overtrading.

Final Thoughts

Churning is the practice of trading assets excessively in a client’s brokerage account to generate commissions. Churning is illegal and unethical, and it is punishable by heavy fines and penalties. A commission on trades or a flat percentage fee for managed accounts may be charged by brokers. Flat-fee accounts can be subjected to “reverse churning,” which involves little or no trading in exchange for a share of the assets every year. By remaining actively involved in portfolio decision-making, investors can avoid churning and reverse churning.