Articles Posted in FINRA

FINRA Fines LPL Financial $900K

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has fined LPL Financial (LPLA) for either not sending or failing to create records showing that it had sent over 1.6 million mandatory account notices to customers over a 36-month period. Under industry rules, account notices have to be sent to customers at three-year intervals which is when determination of suitability is evaluated. FINRA said that LPL did not send more than 25% of such written notices over a period of seven years.

The financial firm accepted the self-regulatory organization’s settlement but is not denying or admitting to the findings. However an LPL spokesperson said in an email that the firm had self-reported the matter and was committed to “enhancing” structures for compliance and risk management.

Port Authority Admits Wrongdoing Related to Failure to Disclose Bond Risks to Investors
The Port Authority of New Jersey and New York will pay a $400K to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the municipal issuer of knowing about the risks involved a number of NJ roadway projects yet failing to tell investors who bought the bonds that would pay for these projects about the risks. The Port Authority admitted wrongdoing.

According to the SEC’s order, the Port Authority sold $2.3B of bonds even though there were questions as to whether certain projects exceeded their mandate and might not be legal to execute. Despite these concerns, the Port Authority did not mention the risks in offering documents.

SEC Cases Seeks to Hold Companies Accountable for FCPA Violations
Already this year, the SEC has brought and/or settled a number of civil cases involving alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Early last month, Biomet, a medical device manufacturer, agreed to pay over $30M to settle parallel Justice department and SEC probes over purported repeat FCPA violations.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory has barred a broker who worked at Merrill Lynch for almost half a century from the securities industry. Louise J. Neale left the broker-dealer and voluntarily ended her registration with the firm last year during an internal probe about her supervisory performance involving fund transactions. She later refused to testify about her resignation before FINRA. This is a violation of the self-regulatory organization’s rules and was immediate grounds for the industry bar. Although Neale worked at Merrill since 1968, it wasn’t until 2003 that she became a registered representative and later a supervisor.

In an unrelated case, FINRA barred another ex-broker for violating firm policies after he, too, refused to testify about the allegations in front of the SRO. John Simpson worked at RBC Capital Markets from 3/2009 to 2/2016. He was let go by the firm for violating its policies about discretion related to client accounts.

Meantime, FINRA has barred two ex-JP Morgan (JPM) brokers. One of the brokers, Brian Alexander Torres, had only been in the securities industry for two months when he was fired by the broker-dealer. Torres admitted that he misappropriated funds from the firm’s affiliate bank. Finra asked Torres for information and documents, but he would not provide them nor would he testify.

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Deutsche Bank AG (DB) has agreed to pay $37M to conclude the US government probes into its handling of trades in dark pool trading venues. The German bank also admitted that between 1/2012 and 2/2014 traders were misled about the way the it ranked its SuperX dark pool and other trading venues. The government settlements were reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York Attorney General. Meantime, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Deutsche Bank $3.25M, noting “deficient disclosures” involving dark pool trading.

According to the NY AG and the SEC, Deutsche Bank told investors that it ranked its dark pools according to a number of factors, including transaction costs. However, some its technology purportedly wasn’t functioning correctly which means that the order-routing choices were not organized according to the factors noted. The German bank also is accused of disregarding its own method for ranking dark pools and placing its own dark pool in a preferred tier.

The government believes that between 1/2012 and 2/2013, Deutsche Bank employed outdated dark-pool rankings to decide how to route orders rather than updating its ranking model on a regular basis.The bank discovered the technical glitch in 2013, but did not fully correct the issue and waited until the following year to notify clients.

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Wells Fargo Fined $1M Over Supervision of Consolidated Client Reports

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that Wells Fargo (WFC)  must pay a $1M fine for not having reasonable supervisory systems in place to oversee the generation of consolidated reports for clients. The broker-dealers that were specifically cited were Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network (WFAFN) and Wells Fargo Advisors (WFA), also referred to as Wells Fargo Clearing Services.They agreed to settle but did not admit or deny the settlement’s findings.

FINRA’s rules mandate that consolidated reports, which are documents that include information about a customer’s financial holdings, even if they are held in different places, must be accurate, clear, and not misleading.  According to the regulator, between 6/2009 and 6/2015, the brokerage firms did not enforce supervisory systems for the use of consolidated reports that registered representatives generated via a specific application. During the relevant period, Wells Fargo advisers used the application to create over five million company reports.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Fines Merrill Lynch $2.8M

Finra has fined Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith Inc. $2.8 million. By settling, the firm is not denying or admitting to the self-regulatory organization’s charges.

FINRA said because of system errors, Merrill Lunch inaccurately reported millions of trades.The regulator said that Merrill Lynch’s supervisory system as it relates to specific matters related to documenting, reporting, and records was  not designed in a reasonable manner.

 

Ernst & Young Settles Audit Failure Charges By Agreeing to Pay Over $11.8M

Ernst & Young LLP has agreed to resolve U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing it of audit failures. The monetary settlement, along with the $140M penalty that audit client Weatherford International agreed to pay separately, will go back to investors who were hurt in the accounting fraud.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has expelled the real estate firm formerly called DT Securities and its owner/CEO Markel Newton. According to the regulator, the firm and Newton engaged in negligent misrepresentations involving private placements. Markel is also barred for alleged violations involving two of the firm’s offerings to purchase real estate in Georgia and Florida, as well as a third one involving alcoholic treatment facilities in California.

According to FINRA, in the private placement offerings Fresh Start, DT Atlanta, and DT Florida, Markel and DT should have disclosed that the California Department of Real Estate had submitted a complaint against him in 2010. The complaint against Markel and DT Ventures Real Estate Investments accused them of performing certain activities without the required real estate license, as well as making misrepresentations about deposits made for purchase to sellers. In 2011, Markel consented to a 30-day suspension.

In addition to accusing Markel of not alerting the state, FINRA also accused Markel of improperly releasing escrow proceeds to purchase properties prior to satisfying funding-raising goals that were delineated in two of the private offerings. The settlement document said that although DT Florida had originally aimed to raise at least $3M by the end of November in 2009, that closing date was extended to 1/29/10. The funds were to go back to investors if that figure wasn’t achieved. The private placement offering put into effect by DT Atlanta in 2011 came with the goal to raise a minimum of $1.7M—a figure that was later lowered to $400K. That lower figure was reportedly never properly fulfilled.

 

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is fining Raymond James Financial Inc. https://www.securities-fraud-attorneys.com(RJFS) and Raymond James & Associates (RJA) $17M. The self-regulatory organization is accusing the company of widespread failures related to anti-money laundering compliance.

According to FINRA, from ’06 to ‘14 the processes that the firm had in place to stop money laundering failed to line up with its business growth. The SRO said that the company instead depended on “patchwork” systems and procedures to identify suspect activity. Because of this, Raymond James was unable to notice certain “red flags” that arose.

FINRA also said that both firms did not perform the mandated due diligence and risks reviews for foreign institutions. RJFS is accused of not putting into place and maintaining a Customer Identification Program that was adequate.

It was just in 2012 that Raymond James Financial Services was subject to sanctions for its inadequate procedures related to anti-money laundering. The firm said that it would evaluate its AML procedures and programs.

Also sanctioned and fined is former Raymond James Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer Linda Busby. She is suspended for three months and must pay a $250K fine. FINRA said that along with the two firms, she did not succeed in setting up AML programs geared toward the two companies, respectively.

By settling, Raymond James Financial Services, Raymond James & Associates, and Busby are not denying or admitting to the FINRA charges.

It is important that financial firms have systems in place to identify suspect transactions that may be signs of money laundering.

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A FINRA arbitration panel has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors LLC (WFC) to pay UBS Financial Services Inc. $1.1M to resolve a claim involving financial adviser David Kinnear who went to work for the Wells Fargo & Co. brokerage arm after leaving the UBS Group AG (UBS) unit. UBS claims that Kinnear stole thousands of client and business records, as well as proprietary information, after resigning from the firm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to a source, Kinnear downloaded the data and distributed it to clients. UBS contends that the compensation Kinnear received at Wells Fargo was related to his ability to successfully bring UBS clients with him. UBS also claims that Kinnear owes it promissory notes.

Wells Fargo denies UBS’s allegations. It submitted a counterclaim accusing the firm of unfair completion, including preventing clients from moving from UBS to Wells Forgo.

Under the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, brokers are only allowed to bring the names and contact information of clients that they serviced while having worked at a firm when moving to another brokerage firm.

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BNY Mellon to Pay Massachusetts $3M Over Computer Problem That Impacted Mutual Funds
Bank of New York Mellon (BK) will pay $3 million to the state of Massachusetts to resolve a probe that found that a computer glitch did not calculate net asset values for over 1,000 mutual funds. Although the bank hired SunGard InvestOne to calculate these values, there was one weekend last year when a malfunction occurred.

The Massachusetts Securities Division conducted an investigation and discovered that BNY Mellon lacked a back-up plan to deal with such a malfunction. Because of this, non-uniform and untimely information was sent to clients and funds. As Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin noted, it is the job of financial institutions like BNY Mellon to oversee third-party vendors and put into place a back-up plan in the event a vendor’s system fails. The bank says that in the wake of the outage, it took action to protect client interests and ensure that the daily net asset values were issued.

BNY Mellon said that it has since made investors and the funds that sustained losses because of the computer error whole. The bank has made changes to supervisory procedures.

WedBush to Pay $675K Fine to Nasdaq and FINRA over Trading and Clearing Errors Involving Exchange-Traded Funds
Wedbush Securities Inc. will pay a $675K fine to the Nasdaq Stock Market and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. over clearing and trading mistakes involving redemption and trading activities related to leveraged ETFs. Wedbush served as Scout Trading, LLC’s clearing firm.

According to FINRA, from 1/10 to 2/12, Scout Trading was not long enough in the shares that made up the redemption orders. Scott Trading turned in more than 250 naked redemption orders via Wedbush. These involved nearly a dozen ETFS that totaled over 295 million shares. This activity and ETF shortselling on the second market by Scout Trading led to Wedbush’s failure to deliver on a number of occasions. (This could have led to a naked short sale in which the seller does not arrange to borrow the securities in a manner timely enough for the buyer to receive the delivery within the standard three days.)

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