“You kind of scratch your head and wonder what’s going on over there,” he said. “Over the years, what we have found is a culture of lax supervision that has led to problems on the trading side and on the compliance side. I’ve never seen as many claims against a firm as I’ve seen against Wedbush. It’s just a different culture.”

Wedbush, in dismissing the regulatory and civil attention as part of the company’s “growing pains,” might have a point. Bigger brokerages do attract more scrutiny, and over the last 15 years or so, Wedbush has become one of the highest-volume traders on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

“That has gotten a lot of attention for us,” Wedbush said.

Had the company not grown so significantly, he said, Wedbush Securities would likely still be flying under the radar.

If Wedbush had done what he wanted in 1955, his firm would have been called Werner & Co., named after his former business partner and friend Robert Werner. The two invested $5,000 each to start up the brokerage but neither wanted to put their name on it, in fear of being associated with a company that could likely fail early.

“We sat at the kitchen table and flipped a coin,” Wedbush said. “I lost and we named the company Wedbush & Co.”

The investment firm generated $659 the first year and about $1,600 the second.

“Obviously, nobody got paid,” he recalled.

Werner left the business shortly thereafter.

Today, Wedbush Inc., the parent company of Wedbush Securities, manages more than $4 billion in assets and employs 1,000 people in more than 100 offices throughout the United States.

The firm’s growth came in large part as a result of its namesake’s work ethic. The octogenarian said he still works half a day.

“A half a day is from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he joked.

He arrives at the office at 5 a.m. most days, assuming his seat at his desk on the trading floor inside the firm’s downtown high-rise.

And despite his firm’s growing pile of legal battles with regulators and clients, Wedbush insists he’s still the guy to run the firm.

“The word retirement … I don’t even know how to spell it,” Wedbush said, adding he has the passion – and health – to get the job done.

Ongoing problems

Like Wedbush the man, the legal problems dogging the firm don’t show signs of slowing down.

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