Garden State Securities, Inc. and Kevin John DeRosa (Principal)
The Firm failed to ensure that it established, maintained and enforced a supervisory system and written supervisory procedures (WSPs) reasonably designed to achieve compliance with the rules and regulations concerning private offering solicitations.
The firmís procedures were deficient in that they failed to specify, among other things, who at the firm was responsible for performing due diligence, what activities by firm personnel were required to satisfy the due diligence requirement, how due diligence was to be documented, who at the firm was responsible for reviewing and approving the due diligence that was performed and authorizing the sale of the securities, and who was to perform ongoing supervision of the private offerings once customer solicitations commenced. As a result of the firmís deficient supervisory system and WSPs, the firm failed to conduct adequate due diligence on private placement offerings. The Firm's WSPs required due diligence to be conducted on every private placement it offered, and required that such review had to be documented; the firm failed to enforce those provisions with respect to an offering. Had the firm conducted adequate due diligence, it reasonably should have known that the company had defaulted on its earlier notes offerings and that there was a misrepresentation in the private placement memorandum (PPM) with respect to principal and interest payments to investors in the earlier offerings. The Firm failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that it timely learned of the missed payments on the earlier notes offerings and disclosed them to prospective investors in the notes. Due to the firmís lack of due diligence, DeRosa sold notes issued to customers, and in connection with those sales, the firm and DeRosa mischaracterized and/or negligently omitted certain material facts provided to investors. DeRosa sold $833,000 of the notes to customers and generated approximately $37,485 in gross commissions from the sales of the notes. Through DeRosa and another registered representative, the Firm solicited customers to invest in another companyís stock but failed to conduct adequate due diligence.
The owner of an investment banking firm represented that the customersí funds would be wired to a client trust account at a bank and then forwarded to an escrow account, which a third party would control, before being invested; the firm did not take any steps to verify this claim before wiring the customer funds to the account. No one at the firm verified the existence of the client trust and escrow accounts, and, after the funds were wired, no one requested or received a bank account statement to verify the receipt and location of the funds; the firm failed to question why the wire instructions failed to reference the client trust account in the bank account title section on the form, but instead referenced the investment banking firm. Instead of directing the customersí money into the escrow account, the owner of the investment banking firm kept the funds in bank accounts he controlled and used the funds for his own benefit.
In addition, in connection with his sales of the companyís stock, DeRosa disseminated to prospective investors a presentation he had received from the owner of the investment banking company, which summarized the offering. Moreover, the presentation constituted sales literature but did not comply with the content standards applicable to communications with the public and sales literature. Furthermore, the presentation failed to provide a fair and balanced treatment of risks and potential benefits, contained unwarranted or exaggerated claims, contained predictions of performance and failed to prominently disclose the firmís name, failed to reflect any relationship between the firm and the non-FINRA member entities involved in the offering, and failed to reflect which product or services the firm was offering.
Garden State Securities, Inc.: Censured; Ordered to pay jointly and severally with DeRosa, $300,000 in restitution to investors. FINRA did not impose a fine against the firm after it considered, among other things, the firmís revenues and financial resources
Kevin John DeRosa (Principal): Fined $25,000; Ordered to pay jointly and severally with Garden State $300,000 in restitution to investors; Suspendedfrom association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 20 business days, and Suspended from association with any FINRA member in any Principal capacity only for 2 months.