Articles Posted in Brokerage Firms In The News

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Securities America, Inc. has agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to customers who were overcharged in certain mutual fund purchases.  According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), between July 1, 1009 and July 1, 2015, Securities America disadvantaged certain retirement plan and charitable organization customers that were eligible to purchase Class A shares of certain mutual funds without a front-end sales charge.  The customers were instead sold Class A shares with a front-end sales charge or Class B or C shares with back-end sales charges and higher ongoing fees and expenses.

According to the Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) submitted to FINRA, Securities America failed to reasonably supervise the application of the sales charge waivers to the eligible mutual fund sales, relying on its financial advisors to determine the applicability of sales charge waivers.  Further, Securities America allegedly failed to adequately notify and train its financial advisors regarding the availability of mutual fund sales charge waivers for eligible customers.  Without admitting or denying the findings, Securities America consented to the sanctions, was censured, and agreed to pay restitution to eligible customers who were overcharged of an estimated $1,541,419.  This amount includes the approximately $1.3 million in mutual fund overcharges plus interest. Continue reading →

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Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. (Summit) of Boca Raton, Florida submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Department of Enforcement for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly failing to apply sales-charge discounts to certain customers’ eligible purchases of unit investment trusts (UITs) and for failing to establish, maintain, and enforce a proper supervisory system. Summit faced a similar FINRA disciplinary action in 2015 with regard to its supervision of non-traditional exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

FINRA investigators alleged that Summit failed to apply sales charge discounts to certain customers’ eligible purchases of UITs. FINRA found that Summit failed to apply sales-charge discounts to 362 eligible UIT purchases resulting in customers paying excessive sales charges of approximately $62,236.26.  FINRA also alleged that Summit failed to establish, maintain, and enforce a supervisory system and written supervisory procedures (WSPs) reasonably designed to ensure that customers received sales-charge discounts to which they were entitled on UIT purchases. Summit’s WSPs did not even contain provisions specific to UIT discounts. Continue reading →

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H.D. Vest Investment Securities, Inc. dba H.D. Vest Investment Services (H.D. Vest) of Irving, Texas submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Department of Enforcement of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly failing to timely and/or accurately report customer complaints, and failing to adequately supervise variable annuity transactions to be sure the products were suitable for customers.

FINRA alleges that during the period September 2012 through July 2015, H.D. Vest failed to accurately and/or timely report seven customer complaints in FINRA’s 4530 Complaint Reporting System.  According to FINRA, H.D. Vest failed to accurately report three customer complaints by failing to select the most egregious problem code; identifying the wrong registered representative in its reporting of another customer complaint; and failing to timely report an initial customer complaint. Continue reading →

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Robert W. Baird & Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Rolf Parker Griffith III of Nashville, Tennessee submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent to the Department of Enforcement of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly failing to reasonably supervise a former registered representative’s misuse of customer funds.

FINRA alleges that during the period July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014, Robert W. Baird & Co. failed to establish, maintain and enforce a supervisory system and written supervisory procedures for correcting trade errors that was reasonably designed to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations and rules. FINRA claimed the brokerage firm did not provide its supervisors with any training or guidance on how to review, approve or process trade corrections in violation of NASD Conduct Rule 3010 and FINRA Rule 2010. Without admitting or denying the FINRA findings, Robert W. Baird & Co. was censured and was ordered to pay a $200,000 fine and ordered to adopt and certify to FINRA that it put in place reasonable supervisory procedures for trade corrections to prevent abuse of customers.  Continue reading →

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Newbridge Securities Corporation (Newbridge) of Boca Raton, Florida submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Department of Enforcement of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly failing to apply sales charge discounts to certain customers’ eligible purchases of unit investment trusts (UITs) in violation of FINRA Rule 2010.

A UIT is a type of Investment Company that issues securities and holds a fixed portfolio. UITS typically offer “break points” which reduce client fees based on the amount invested. FINRA requires that all UIT transactions take place “on the most advantageous terms available to the customer.” FINRA investigators found that Newbridge failed to apply sales discounts to customers resulting in clients paying excessive charges.

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WFG Investments, Inc. of Dallas, Texas submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent to the Department of Enforcement of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly failing to apply sales charge discounts to curtain customers’ eligible purchases of Unit investment Trusts (UITs). WFG was subject to a similar FINRA complaint in December 2014 which alleged the firm failed to supervise a representative in connection with false statements received by clients.

A UIT is a type of Investment Company that issues securities, typically called “units,” representing undivided interests in a fixed portfolio of securities. UIT units are redeemable securities that are issued for a specific term, and entitle an investor to receive his or her proportionate share of the UIT’s net assets on redemption or at termination. One way to reduce the sales fee charged on a UIT purchase is through “breakpoints” which reduce client fees based on the amount they invested.

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Shearson Financial Services, LLC (SFS) of Boca Raton, Florida submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Department of Enforcement of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly maintaining inaccurate books and records.

FINRA investigators found between June 10,2013 through October 6,2015, SFS maintained inaccurate books and records reflecting that 1,873 transactions were unsolicited, when in fact, the transactions were solicited, in violation of FINRA Rules 451 1(a), 2010, and Section 17(a) and SEC Rule 17a-3 of the Securities Exchange Act. In addition, during this period, SFS, acting through 15 registered representatives, exercised discretion in 231 transactions in 56 customer accounts, without written authorization from the account holders, in violation of NASD Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010.

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President of The Investment Center, Inc. (Investment Center) Ralph Devito was named as a Respondent in a Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) investigation that alleged Mr. Devito failed to properly supervise a registered representative with the firm. The investigation arose after the TSSB received a complaint alleging an Investment Center employee recommended unsuitable investments.

As President of The Investment Center, the firm’s written procedures required Mr. Devito to conduct a reasonable investigation into a representative’s activity. The TSSB found that between January 2010 and March 2014, an Investment Center employee recommended and executed several securities transactions that raised numerous “red flags.” TSSB alleges Mr. Devito either failed to notice or chose to ignore those “red flags” in client accounts. The investigation found that a majority of the representatives’ clients held over 95% of their total assets in equity positions of a single energy company. Continue reading →

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David Miller of Columbus, Ohio was named Respondent in a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) complaint that alleged he made negligent misrepresentations and omissions of material fact in connection with customers’ purchases of UITs. FINRA alleged that Mr. Miller recommended 140 UIT purchases totaling over $5.3 million in 129 customer accounts without having a reasonable basis to make the recommendations, in violation of FINRA Rules 2111 and 2010.

From June 2008 through August 2013, Mr. Miller was registered as a General Securities Representative (GSR) with The Huntington Investment Company (Huntington), the broker-dealer affiliate of The Huntington National Bank (Huntington Bank). The FINRA complaint originated after Huntington filed a Form U5 on August 27, 2013, disclosing that Mr. Miller had “violated industry standards of conduct.” Upon investigation, FINRA found that Mr. Miller engaged in a pattern of recommending unsuitable UITs without having a reasonable basis for the recommendations, causing his customers to lose a total of $1,019,656.83.

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Ali Radfar of New York, New York submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Department of Enforcement of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly participating in an undisclosed private securities transaction in violation of NASD Rule 3040 and FINRA Rule 2010. Radfar entered the securities industry in July 2006 and was associates with FINRA member firm UBS Securities, LLC (UBS) from August 2012 through March 2015.

From August through October 2014, Mr. Radfar, with the help of another UBS member, participated in an undisclosed private securities transaction. FINRA alleged Mr. Radfar and the other firm member pooled personal funds with those of 12 other individuals whose investment they solicited. FINRA found a collective total of $300,000 was invested in SMS, an application-based game company. This investment, a private securities transaction, was made through two outside investment vehicles that were also formed by Mr. Radfar and the UBS representative.

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