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.”
Although the FINRA press release states that the victim was repaid her losses, brokerage firms do not always voluntarily do so in broker theft cases. Greco & Greco has extensive experience in broker theft and forged withdrawal/wire cases. Although the individual thief may not have the funds to return the stolen monies, the associated firms required to supervise the activities of their agents may be found responsible under multiple legal theories.