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Tom Puentes, a former registered representative with the Langley, Washington branch of Morgan Stanley, submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent in which he consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that he entered discretionary trades in at least fourteen customer accounts without the necessary prior written authorization.

FINRA found that Tom Abel Puentes, of Langley, Washington, failed to obtain the necessary written authorization from his customers or his member firm when he exercised time and price discretion in the accounts of fourteen customers.  According to FINRA, Mr. Puentes exercised discretion to purchase municipal bonds on approximately 220 occasions in his customers’ accounts, in contravention of his firm’s policies.  Further, Mr. Puentes falsely answered “no” on his firm’s annual compliance questionnaire to the question asking if he had any accounts in which business is transacted on a discretionary basis.  Continue reading →

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Lawrence Thomas, a registered representative formerly employed with Essex Securities LLC, submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent in which he consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that he directed his assistant to forge the signatures on account documents without the customers’ knowledge or approval.

FINRA’s findings state that Lawrence Marshall Thomas, of North Attleboro Massachusetts, instructed his assistant to forge the signatures of three customers on approximately ten occasions from January 2015 through September 2015.  Mr. Thomas’ assistant copied and pasted authentic client signatures onto new firm documents, including new account forms and applications.  Although the customers requested the underlying transactions, they did not know of or approve of the falsified signatures. Continue reading →

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Debra J. Ferrara, a non-registered associate employed by New York NY-based Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (Morgan Stanley), submitted a letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) in which she consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the entry of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that she falsely represented that she had verbally confirmed five wire transfers totaling $108,680 which turned out to be fraudulent requests from a customer’s hacked email account.

Debra Jean Ferrara, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, allegedly caused five fraudulent wire disbursements to be transferred from a customer’s account to a third-party bank.  According to FINRA, Ms. Ferrara, a client services associate with Morgan Stanley, was sent an email with a request for a wire transfer of $27,750 from the hacked account of a client to a third party account.  Ms. Ferrara completed the wire processing form stating falsely that she had verbally confirmed the transfer request when she had not.  FINRA found that two days following the first hacked account wire request, Ms. Ferrara received another email from the imposter from an email that looked similar, but was different.  The “m” in the email address had been changed to an “n” this time.  Again, Ms. Ferrara processed the wire transfer requests, falsely attesting to verbally confirming the request when she had not. Continue reading →

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Richard Lee, former registered representative with Caldwell International Securities Corp., submitted an Offer of Settlement to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which he was suspended for 18 months and required to requalify by exam before reentering the securities industry in any capacity.  Richard Lee, of West Nyack New York, was found by FINRA to have recommended an unsuitable active trading strategy to his customers without understanding the risks involved, whether or not the strategy was suitable for his clients, or the impact the staggering commissions and fees generated by his recommended strategy would have on his customers’ accounts.

According to FINRA, Richard Lee generated new customers by cold calling them and generally targeted customers who would agree to speculation as their investment objective.  FINRA noted that Mr. Lee allegedly believed that once a customer selected “speculation,” that any investment strategy or trade was suitable.  Moreover, FINRA states that the funds in customers’ accounts were considered “gambling money” that the customer could afford to lose.  FINRA found that when customers did complain, Mr. Lee allegedly failed to report the complaints, but rather tried to hide his behavior by reducing sales charges.  For instance, FINRA stated that when one of Mr. Lee’s customers sent him an email telling him to stop trading and “I am very disappointed in you.   You have abused my trust,” Mr. Lee agreed to stop charging the customer commissions until the account was even.  Continue reading →

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Richard Demetriou, a registered representative with Titan Securities of Dallas Texas, was named a Respondent in a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) complaint alleging that he made numerous misrepresentations to prospective investors in connection with a speculative real estate investment which allegedly caused all investors involved to loss their monies.

According to the FINRA complaint, Richard Wayne Demetriou, of Dunwoody Georgia, served as the manager of RBCP, a Mississippi company involved in speculative real estate investments.  FINRA’s complaint notes that RBCP was orchestrated by an individual who was barred from the securities industry for securities fraud.  Mr. Demetriou allegedly promoted investments in RBCP to at least 36 customers, including four Titan customers.  In his promotion of the investment, Mr. Demetriou sent prospective investors several promotional emails and sales literature which allegedly contained numerous misrepresentations which, FINRA alleges, Mr. Demetriou had no reason to believe were accurate.  Unfortunately, as of October 17, 2016, the RBCP investment promoted by Richard Demetriou has not returned any investment funds and all investor monies have been lost. Continue reading →

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David Lockey, a stockbroker formerly employed with SWS Financial Services, Inc. n/k/a Hilltop Securities Independent Network, Inc., submitted an Offer of Settlement to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $10,000, suspended for six months, and ordered to pay disgorgement of portion of his commissions of $46,447.38 and restitution to customers.  Without admitting or denying FINRA’s allegations, David Randall Lockey, of Carrollton Texas, consented to the entry of findings that he recommended and engaged in a pattern of unsuitable trading of open-end mutual funds (OMFs), unit investment trusts (UITs), and/or closed-end funds (CEFs) in the accounts of four customers.

According to FINRA, David Lockey engaged in unsuitable short-term trading and switching in OMFs and/or UITs in the accounts of four customers.  In two of those four customers’ accounts, Mr. Lockey is alleged to have made unsuitable trades and switches in CEFs.  FINRA stated that David Lockey executed 37 trades in OMFs and/or UITs in the customers’ accounts in which they were held for less than one year. Those products are generally intended to be held long-term in order to off-set their fees.  He also allegedly executed 23 unsuitable transactions in CEFs in two of the four customers’ accounts.  Continue reading →

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Former Caldwell International Securities Corp. broker, Alex Etter, submitted an Offer of Settlement to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $10,000, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay disgorgement of ill-gotten gains of $227,395.45 and restitution to customers.  Without admitting or denying FINRA’s allegations, Alex Etter consented to the entry of findings that he recommended an unsuitable active trading strategy to his customers despite a lack of understanding of the risks involved or the impact the staggering commissions and fees generated by his recommended strategy would have on his customers’ accounts.

According to FINRA, Alex Evan Etter, of Old Tappan, New Jersey, failed to conduct any due diligence into the active trading strategy he was recommending to his customers and routinely recommended the strategy despite the fact that he never reviewed his customers’ accounts to determine if the strategy was successful or suitable for this customers.  FINRA found that when customers did complain, Mr. Etter allegedly failed to report the complaints, but rather tried to hide his behavior by reducing sales charges.  For instance, FINRA stated that when one of Mr. Etter’s customers expressed concerned about the poor performance and excessive commissions in his account, Mr. Etter offered to stop charging commissions for the next ten trades instead of reporting the complaint.  Alex Etter was suspended by FINRA for two years.  The suspension is in effect from October 17, 2016 through October 16, 2018. Continue reading →

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Jeffrey Hamilton Howell, a registered representative formerly employed by UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent in which he was barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) amid findings that he failed to provide documents and information FINRA had requested and failed to appear and provide on-the-record testimony in relation to allegations that he sent his customer false weekly reports that overvalued the account by as much as $3 million.

FINRA found that beginning in September 2008 and continuing through November 2014, Jeffrey Howell, of Wentzville, Missouri, created and sent his customer over 300 weekly reports that supposedly reflected the customer’s portfolio value.  In actuality, the report misstated the account value in amounts ranging from $289,000 to approximately $3 million.  In order to conceal his fraudulent misconduct, Mr. Howell allegedly altered three UBS account statements to match the information purported in his falsely created portfolio reports.  When asked by FINRA to appear for testimony regarding the allegations, Mr. Howell acknowledged that he received the request and would not appear to provide testimony.  By refusing to respond to FINRA’s request, Mr. Howell was in violation of FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010.  Without admitting or denying the findings, Mr. Howell was permanently barred by FINRA. Continue reading →

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Mark Tauzin, a former registered representative with LPL Financial LLC submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) in which he was suspended and assessed a deferred fine of $20,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for engaging in unsuitable short-term trading of front-loaded Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) which resulted in sales charges to the customers of more than $316,000.

According to FINRA, Mark Tauzin, of Lafayette, Louisiana, effected 215 UIT transactions in the accounts of 14 households that were sold within a 12 month time period.  UITs are not designed to be used as trading investments, particularly not to be used for short-term trading, and typically carry significant upfront charges.  As a result of Mr. Tauzin’s unsuitable UIT transactions, the customers incurred sales charges of $316,840.50 and Mr. Tauzin received $205,115.02 in commissions. Continue reading →

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Donald Gross II, a former broker with the Parsippany, New Jersey branch of Summit Equities, Inc., submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent in which he consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that he participated in private securities transactions for compensation without the necessary approval from his employer.

FINRA found that Donald Kay Gross II, of Lebanon, New Jersey, sold approximately $6.2 million in limited partnership interests in the IME Fund, a hedge fund that traded options, to 11 investors who were also Summit customers. Mr. Gross is alleged by FINRA to have received compensation from the IME Fund for his sales.  Unfortunately, the IME Fund collapsed, and the investors lost nearly 95% of their investments. Continue reading →