Can an SEC licensed broker-dealer transfer your 401k account into an IRA without your permission?
Can the broker-dealer also allow your husband to withdraw funds from your 401k-changed-to-IRA account without your permission? Is this a violation of fiduciary duty? Should I consult a lawyer?
Typically no, however, some 401k plans may permit the 401k custodian to rollover a 401k account to an IRA if you're no longer employed and the account value is under a certain amount. For example, if XYZ company handles your 401k plan then the governing plan document for your company's plan may allow XYZ to move the 401k account into an XYZ IRA. This is sometimes allowed so that the custodian can clear smaller 401k accounts out of the plan. But I don't think it would ever allow for your 401k at XYZ to be rolled over into another broker dealer's IRA. If this rollover was permitted by the pan document then you should have received ample notification from the 401k custodian before any such transfers were processed.
Definitely "no" regarding the broker dealer permitting your husband to initiate a rollover. This couldn't happen without someone forging your signatures on the account documents. One caveat would be if you had passed away then of course he would be permitted to roll the 401k into his own IRA. So yes, this does sound like a securities violation and you should make further inquiries to see exactly what happened, file a complaint if your money was mishandled and take further legal action as you see necessary.
No investment account may be transferred without the account holder's (or their executor's) signature, period. This would apply to a 401(k) being transferred, or Rolled into an IRA, AND/OR any other person, other than the account holder, gaining access to the account holder's funds.
While the Department of Labor has recently passed the Fiduciary Rule, many broker dealers have not acted, nor are acting, in a fiduciary role. This activity should be reported to the 401(k) administrator and/or IRA custodian in the form of a written complaint, mailed via Certified-Return-Receipt-Mail, and also reported as a complaint to FINRA immediately for redress. This link is provided for information on filing a FINRA complaint: http://www.finra.org/investors/file-complaint
Not knowing the amount of money involved, or when these transgressions allegedly occurred may determine whether obtaining a lawyer would be advised, yet I would allow FINRA to advise you first. Why spend more money on a lawyer, if you may be able to retrieve what seems to be lawfully yours, through these above-named channels, without paying either an hourly fee or a percentage of the amount of money in question.
I do not know how a broker could convert you from a 401k to and IRA without your permission. If you have separated from your employer and your balance is less than $5,000, the employer may be able to push you out of the 401k. In that case, they may have an agreement with a brokerage that it automatically converts to an IRA. Ask the broker how this account was established.
IRAs and 401(k)s are individually titled, even if it is considered marital property. Consequently, your husband should not be able to act on the account unless he has Power of Attorney for you. It sounds you two may not be on the best of terms, so I would check with the broker first. They should be able to provide documentation of the withdrawal request.
Unless your husband had power-of-attorney over your 401k or IRA, a broker is not allowed to take instructions from him regarding these accounts. If this was done and you disapprove, you should first call the investment firm management and if they refuse to repair the damage you should get a lawyer. I would also refuse to do business with the broker.
While brokers are not fiduciaries, I am not familiar with any 401(k) account that allows advisors a withdrawal authority without your consent. I certainly would speak to an attorney if you believe you have been harmed by an unauthorized rollover.