St. Louis, Missouri firm Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC issued a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for allegedly failing to supervise one of their registered representatives. FINRA alleged that the former Wells Fargo Advisors representative “excessively traded equity positions” in the stocks of an elderly customer. FINRA found that this alleged broker misconduct continued until a firm program flagged the customer’s account. FINRA found that as a result of this misconduct the customer paid $300,000 in excess commissions and fees. The FINRA investigation concluded Wells Fargo Advisors violated NASD Rule 3010(a) and FINRA Rules 3110(a) and 2010 by failing to supervise a former registered representative who excessively traded equity positions in an account belonging to a senior customer. Without admitting or denying the FINRA findings, Wells Fargo Advisors consented to the FINRA findings and was censured and fined $175,000. Continue Reading
Matthew Maczko, a former registered representative with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which he was barred from association with any FINRA member in all capacities amid allegations that he made unsuitable recommendations and excessively traded four brokerage accounts held by an elderly customer.
According to FINRA, Matthew Christopher Maczko, of Downers Grove, Illinois, was the registered representative for his now 93 year old customer’s four brokerage accounts. According to FINRA, Mr. Maczko allegedly controlled the four brokerage accounts. During the relevant period, January 2009 to April 2016, FINRA found that Mr. Maczko effected over 2800 transactions in this customer’s accounts. FINRA stated that Mr. Maczko’s excessive trading strategy generated approximately $581,650 in commissions, $84,270 in fees, and allegedly caused his customer $397,000 in trading losses. Without admitting or denying the findings, Mr. Maczko was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. Continue Reading
Robert Batchen, a broker formerly employed with the Skokie, Illinois branch of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (Wells Fargo), 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 made unsuitable discretionary trades in his customer’s accounts, causing losses in excess of $56,000.
FINRA found that Robert James Batchen, of Wheeling, Illinois, exercised discretion in his customer’s accounts without the written authorization of the customer of his member firm, in violation of NASD Rule 2510(b). Mr. Batchen is alleged by FINRA to have effected more than 900 discretionary trades during the relevant time period. Continue Reading
Dennis Mark Adam Merritt, a registered representative formerly employed with the Palm Harbor, Florida branch of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC was named a respondent in a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) complaint alleging that he failed to perform adequate due diligence in connection with unsuitable private securities recommendations he made to several of his customers.
The complaint alleges that Dennis Merritt, of Palm Harbor, Florida, recommended that four of his customers invest in a speculative investment, namely, a company called SavvyPhone, LLC, without having conducted proper due diligence to have made such recommendations. According to FINRA’s complaint, Mr. Merritt participated in three private securities transactions in which his customers invested a total of $115,000 in SavvyPhone based upon his unsuitable recommendations. Continue Reading
Valentino Infante, a former General Securities Registered Representative with the Miami, Florida office of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (Wells Fargo), has been permanently barred from acting as a broker or otherwise associating with firms that sell securities to the public by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) due to findings that he engaged in outside business activities without providing his member firm with prior written notice and for failing to appear at a FINRA on-the-record interview.
According to FINRA, Valentino Infante, of Miami, Florida, established a limited liability company in Florida and, on two occasions, solicited a Wells Fargo customer to provide funding for the business. Mr. Infante neglected to obtain his member firm’s approval to engage in the outside business activities, as required by FINRA Rule 3270. Continue Reading
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (Wells Fargo) to pay a $500,000 fine and $241,974.34 plus pre-judgment interest in restitution to customers for allegedly making unsuitable recommendations to customers to purchase structured repackaged asset-backed trust securities (STRATS).
From approximately 2005 to 2012, Wells Fargo made unsuitable STRATS recommendations to its retail customers, selling nearly $12 million worth of the complex structured products. According to FINRA, Wells Fargo failed to properly educate its registered representatives about the risks associated with STRATS and that the customers had the potential to suffer significant losses. FINRA also found that Wells Fargo’s internal-use STRATS brochures were not fair and balanced and neglected to provide an appropriate basis for evaluating the risks and therefore the suitability of the STRATS. Wells Fargo did not admit to or deny FINRA’s findings. Continue Reading
Douglas Jay Melzer, a former broker with the Sewickley, Pennsylvania branch of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (Wells Fargo), 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 solicited his firm’s customers to invest $2 million in an unapproved outside investment.
According to FINRA, Douglas Melzer, aka Dutch Melzer, solicited four of his Wells Fargo customers to invest $2 million in an investment contract that had not been approved by the firm. Mr. Melzer received at least $27,000 for his participation in the securities transactions and a 2.5% member interest in the investment. Further, FINRA found that Mr. Melzer caused the registered representative code on some customer accounts to be changed, which resulted in the firm paying him over $9,500 in commissions that should have gone to his partners. Consequently, Douglas Melzer, of Mars, Pennsylvania, was permanently barred from any association with any FINRA member in any capacity. Continue Reading
Ane S. Plate, a former registered representative with Orlando, Florida based Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (Wells Fargo), consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the sanction and the entry of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that she effected 15 unauthorized trades from a customer’s Wells Fargo account, and converted the proceeds of those unauthorized trades for her personal use and benefit. Continue Reading
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Wells Fargo Advisors with failing to maintain adequate controls in order to prevent one of its employees from using confidential customer information to engage in insider trading. Additionally, the SEC charged Wells Fargo Advisors with producing an altered document in a compliance review of the broker’s trading activities. This case, in which Wells Fargo has agreed to the monetary penalty of $5 million, is the first time the SEC has charged a brokerage firm for its failure to protect a customer’s confidential information, an important ruling at a time when many peoples’ personal information is reportedly being compromised due to computer hacking.
According to the SEC’s order, a Wells Fargo broker received confidential information from a customer that Burger King was being acquired by private equity firm 3G Capital Partners. The broker, Waldyr Da Silva Prado Neto (Prado), then used that confidential information to enact trades ahead of the public announcement. The SEC has also charged Prado with insider trading, freezing his assets to prevent any transfers of the ill-gotten profits, alleged to be $175,000.
The SEC’s order goes on to state that multiple groups responsible for compliance or supervision at Wells Fargo were told of the broker’s misuse of customer information, but failed to act. According to Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, “When investors entrust private information to their stockbrokers or investment advisors, they have the right to expect that it will not be exploited.” Wells Fargo admitted to the SEC’s findings and agreed to pay the $5 million penalty.
Section 15(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Section 204A of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 require broker-dealers and investments advisers to establish, maintain, and enforce policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent the misuse of material nonpublic information. Brokerage firms like Wells Fargo Advisors have a legal duty to protect their customers’ confidential information and to supervise their brokers to ensure compliance and prevent violations of the rules and regulations of the securities industry.