Articles Posted in Disciplinary Actions

Shawn Edward Good, who was a registered broker with Morgan Stanley it its Wilmington, North Carolina office, was recently barred by FINRA by consent agreement.  Mr. Good also has a pending SEC Complaint against him alleging the following involvement in a ponzi scheme:

  • From 2012 until 2022 Mr. Good solicited customers to transfer funds to his personal bank account, allegedly for investments in real estate and government bonds.
  • In ponzi scheme fashion, the transferred monies were used to repay earlier customers who had also invested, in addition to payment of Mr. Good’s personal expenses.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a Complaint charging a Broker-Dealer for the first time with a violation of the recently enacted Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI).  The subject of the Complaint was Western International Securities, and five of its registered brokers, Nancy Cole, Patrick Egan, Andy Gitipityapon, Steven Graham, and Thomas Swan.

The Complaint alleges that Western and its brokers sold high risk and potentially illiquid L bonds issued by GWG Holdings, Inc., with many of the sales to customers on fixed incomes and with moderate risk tolerances.  The SEC’s press release alleged that the Defendants “failed to comply with Reg BI’s “Care Obligation” both because they did not exercise reasonable diligence, care, and skill to understand the risks, rewards, and costs associated with L Bonds, and also because they recommended L Bonds to at least seven particular customers without a reasonable basis to believe the bonds were in their customers’ best interests.”

The SEC also claimed that the activities and sales violated the compliance component of Reg BI which requires firms to establish, maintain, and enforce written policies and procedures reasonably designed to achieve compliance with Reg BI.

Former Richmond, Virginia Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. financial advisor Warren E. Rowe Jr. was barred from the securities industry by FINRA recently after an investigation related to alleged loans taken from customers.

According the the FINRA Letter of Acceptance Waiver and Consent found here, Mr. Rowe refused to provide documents in response to a request of FINRA investigators.  The AWC, signed by Mr. Rowe, imposed a bar on Mr. Rowe’s association with any FINRA member in all capacities.

Mr. Rowe’s FINRA Brokercheck report reveals that he voluntarily resigned from Oppenheimer in May 2020 after an allegation that he took a loan from a client without disclosing it to the firm.  The report also references multiple customer complaints related to alleged loans, as well as complaints related to unauthorized trading, and inappropriate margin use.  Interestingly, a customer complaint regarding a loan made after his separation from Oppenheimer is still listed as “denied” by the firm.

FINRA issued a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent against Suntrust Investment Services, Inc. in May of 2020 related to the recommendation and failure to supervise non-traditional ETFs to customers.

Non Traditional ETFs include ETFs designed to, on a daily basis, return a multiple of an underlying index or benchmark, or the inverse of the return of an underlying index or benchmark.  Because these products are often meant as a day trading vehicle, and are reset daily, their performance over longer lengths of time may differ significantly from the performance of the index or benchmark.

These risks were set out by FINRA a decade ago in Regulatory Notice 09-31 which discussed the fact that “inverse and leveraged ETFs that are reset daily typically are unsuitable for retail investors who plan to hold them for longer than one trading session, particularly in volatile markets.”  FINRA further has required member Broker-Dealers to have supervisory systems in place to ensure compliance with industry Rules, and importantly customer specific suitability under Rule 2111.

FINRA fined Prudential Annuities Distributors $950,000 this month for its failure to detect and prevent the theft by its agent, Travis Wetzel, of almost $1,300,000 from a customer’s variable annuity.  The FINRA Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent may be found here.  

Mr. Wetzel, who was a former registered representative of LPL Financial, allegedly submitted multiple forged wire transfer requests from the variable annuity, to be paid to a third party account in Mr. Wetzel’s wife’s maiden name.

FINRA alleged that Prudential failed to investigate red flags and audits associated with the repeated payments to third parties.  FINRA stated, “PAD failed to establish and maintain reasonable supervisory procedures and controls to supervise third-party distributions and prevent fraudulent withdrawals from VA accounts.”  

As set out in this SEC Order from an Administrative Law Judge (https://www.sec.gov/alj/aljdec/2016/id1033jeg.pdf), Dawn Bennett has been barred from the securities industry by the SEC. Dawn Bennett was a Washington DC area advisor who was previously registered to sell securities with Western International Securities.

Judge Grimes also imposed over one million dollars of fines and disgorgement against Ms. Bennett. The findings in the above Order included the following:

“Respondents repeatedly overstated their AUM [Assets Under Management] by at least $1.5 billion in Barron’s magazine, on a radio show hosted by Bennett, and in various other advertisements and communications with existing and prospective clients to create the impression that Respondents were larger and more successful players in the industry than was actually the case.”

Ismail Elmas plead guilty on October 21, 2014 to a Count of Wire Fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release (which can be found here), Mr. Elmas worked at Apple Financial Services, an affiliate of Apple Federal Credit Union during the time of the offense.

FINRA’s Brokercheck Report for Mr. Elmas states that Mr. Elmas was previously registered as a securities registered representative with CUNA Brokerage Services and CUSO Financial Services, both FINRA Broker-Dealers.  The Brokercheck Report states that he was terminated by CUSO because he “allegedly converted funds for personal use…”

The above press release references that Elmas admitted to misappropriating client funds given to him for legitimate investments, and that he defrauded more than 10 of his clients, many of whom were seniors and widows. 

FINRA, a regulator of the securities industry, recently issued a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) regarding former FSC Securities Corporation broker, Andrew Corbman. Pursuant to the AWC, Mr. Corbman was suspended for one month from being registered with any FINRA firm.

Mr. Corbman was registered with FSC Securities from 2/2008 – 1/2011, Kovack Securities from 01/2011 – 11/2015, and Newbridge Securities from 11/2015 – 3/2016.

The AWC may be found here:  http://disciplinaryactions.finra.org/Search/ViewDocument/64878  In the AWC, FINRA alleges that “Between April 2009 and March 2010, while registered with a FINRA member firm, Corbman made unsuitable recommendations to three customers that were inconsistent with the customers’ investment objectives and risk tolerances and resulted in overconcentration oftheir liquid net worth in these investments. From April 2009 through June 2009, Corbman improperly recommended to two ofhis customers, who were a married couple with growth objectives and moderate risk tolerances, to purchase unsuitablehighly risky leveraged, inverse Exchange-Traded Funds (Non-Traditional ETFs”).”

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