Enforcement Actions
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
CASES OF NOTE
2011
NOTE: Stipulations of Fact and Consent to Penalty (SFC); Offers of Settlement (OS); and Letters of Acceptance Waiver, and Consent (AWC) are entered into by Respondents without admitting or denying the allegations, but consent is given to the described sanctions & to the entry of findings. Additionally, for AWCs, if FINRA has reason to believe a violation has occurred and the member or associated person does not dispute the violation, FINRA may prepare and request that the member or associated person execute a letter accepting a finding of violation, consenting to the imposition of sanctions, and agreeing to waive such member's or associated person's right to a hearing before a hearing panel, and any right of appeal to the National Adjudicatory Council, the SEC, and the courts, or to otherwise challenge the validity of the letter, if the letter is accepted. The letter shall describe the act or practice engaged in or omitted, the rule, regulation, or statutory provision violated, and the sanction or sanctions to be imposed.
December 2011
Dawson James Securities, Inc, Albert James Poliak (Principal) and Douglas Fulton Kaiser (Principal)
OS/2009016158501/December 2011
The Firm entered into a de facto commission recapture agreement with a firm customer without meeting the minimum required net capital of $250,000 and without filing an application for amendment of the firmís FINRA membership agreement

The Firm and a customer entered into a consulting agreement whereby the customer was to provide research and advisory services. However, the firm did not request, nor did the customer provide, research reports or advisory services or any of the other services set forth in the consulting agreement. Moreover, the Firm paid the customer a total of $1,215,000, which exceeded by $885,000 the payments due to the customer per the contractual requirements under the consulting agreement. The payments exceeded the contractual requirements of the consulting agreement because the agreement was a de facto commission recapture arrangement through which the customer was paid larger amounts based upon the level of security transactions the customer was executing in its brokerage account at the firm. 

Dawson's CEO Poliak was responsible for the creation of the consulting agreement and approved each wire transfer payment to the customer, including the payments that were in excess of amounts due to the customer under the consulting agreement. 

Kaiser (who acted at times as both the firmís head of trading and the Financial and Operations Principal (FINOP)) was responsible for calculating the payments owed to the customer and he pulled research concerning the customerís trades in an effort to document the consulting agreement, but the Firm was unable to document its use of the purported research or other financial benefit arising from the consulting agreement. 

Poliak and Kaiser acted unethically in that they facilitated the improper commission recapture arrangement between the firm and customer, and caused the firm to fail to comply with the requirement of NASD Rule 1017.

Acting through Poliak and Kaiser, the Firm violated the Customer Protection Rule in several ways:
  1. in connection with the commission recapture agreement described above, the firm held, or was in control of, customer funds without establishing a special reserve bank account for the exclusive benefit of the customer in violation of Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c3-3, By holding customer funds and failing to forward the funds to its clearing firm, the firm became a broker or dealer that receives and holds funds for customers, which required it to increase its net capital and establish a reserve bank account for customer protection;
  2. after a commission recapture agreement was ultimately established for the customer by the firmís clearing firm, the firm deposited into its own checking account a check from the clearing firm which included at least $136,700 in commission rebates due to the customer. Rather than record a liability to the customer, the firm made a journal entry to reduce the commission receivable. The firmís receipt of customer funds increased its minimum net capital to $250,000, a level that the firm did not meet;
  3. the firm held and segregated security positions in its proprietary account for the benefit of two customers in order to satisfy the obligation of promissory notes and a confidential private placement memorandum (PPM); 
  4. the firm acted in the capacity of a noteholderís agent to facilitate the repayment to firm customers of $2,715,000 of principal plus interest on defaulted notes and warrants issued by an unaffiliated issuer. By doing so, the firm acted in a carrying, transferring and safekeeping capacity for customers, which required the firm to maintain a minimum net capital of at least $250,000. The firmís net capital was below that required minimum, and as a result the Financial and Operational Combined Uniform Single (FOCUS) reports it filed, and its books and records, were inaccurate. The firm also failed to timely file Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 17a-11 notices when notified by its designated examining authority that the broker-dealerís net capital was, or had been, below its minimum requirement. 
When acting in the capacity as the firmís FINOP, Kaiser was responsible for supervision and/or performance of the firmís compliance under all financial responsibility rules promulgated pursuant to provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Kaiser failed to adequately perform his FINOP responsibilities in that he failed to take adequate steps to ensure the accuracy of the firmís net capital calculations. 

As Poliak participated in the firmís holding of customer funds in violation of Rule 15c3-3, Poliak caused the firmís net capital and books and records violations. The firmís compensation committee did not document the basis upon which a research analystís compensation was established, thus failing to establish a written record of whether specific factors required by NASD Rule 2711 were properly considered, and whether research analyst compensation was tied to any investment banking activities. 

FINRA found that a senior officer at the firm inaccurately represented in required attestations submitted to FINRA that the compensation committee documented the basis upon which each research analystís compensation was established. The senior officer should have known that each attestation submitted contained false information. Furthermore, the Firm sold securities for customer accounts that were not registered pursuant to Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933, nor exempt from registration; the sales constituted an unregistered distribution by the firm. 

Dawson James Securities, Inc: Censured; FIned $90,000
Albert James Poliak: Fined $30,000; Suspended 1 year
Douglas Fulton Kaiser: Fined $30,000; Suspended 1 year
Tags:  Commissions    Membership Agreement    Customer Protection Rule        FINOP     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Joseph John Giuliano (Principal)
AWC/2009019382101/December 2011
An individual who subsequently became a trader with Giuliano's member firm provided $250,000 to the firmís parent company, without loan documentation or written agreement, either as funds to be traded in a firm proprietary account or be held as a security deposit to insure the brokerdealer against trading losses the individual might incur. Giuliano, an owner of at least a 40-percent stake in the parent company and the firmís chief financial officer (CFO) and FINOP, caused the funds to be deposited into the parent companyís checking account and used some or all of the funds, without the individualís consent or authorization, to pay various expenses and debts of the parent company and the firm, thereby misusing the funds.
Joseph John Giuliano (Principal): Barred
Tags:  Proprietary Traders    Loan    FINOP     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
November 2011
Joanne Lynn Cramer (Principal)
AWC/2009020729101/November 2011
Cramer conducted transactions on behalf of the firm and its parent company after these entities terminated her as an employee and officer. After receiving the termination notice, Cramer sent a fax on firm letterhead instructing the firmís bank to transfer $3,075 from the firmís account to the firmís parent companyís operating account. The bank processed the transaction as a journal entry according to Cramerís instructions. Cramer sent the fax and signed it as president of the firm and its parent company although she never held the office of president of either the firm or its parent company. The journal entry was necessary to cover a $4,000 check payable to Cramer from the parent companyís operating account, which she wrote and presented for payment.

At the time of Cramerís termination, she was in possession of another check payable to her in the amount of $65,679.88 written against the account of the parent companyís defined-benefit plan; this check was dated for a certain date before her termination, but Cramer did not present it for payment until a few days after her termination. Cramer sent an email to a representative of the firmís clearing firm requesting that an inactivity fee be reversed; Cramer closed the email with her name, the firmís name/the firmís parent companyís name, and made no reference to the fact that she no longer had a position with either the firm or its parent company.
Joanne Lynn Cramer (Principal): Fined $5,000; Suspended 1 month in all capacities; Suspended 6 months in FINOP only capacities
Tags:  FINOP     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
October 2011
Yaman Huseyin Sencan (Principal)
AWC/2009016323801/October 2011

Sencan  failed to reasonably supervise the activities of member firm personnel engaged in the charging of excessive commissions, sharing commissions with a non-member and misusing funds on deposit with the firm.

Acting through its head trader, Sencan's firm improperly shared about $4 million in commissions with one of the firmís hedge fund clients and charged excessive commissions totaling over $580,000 in transactions.

Sencan was the head traderís direct supervisor and was aware that the firm had entered into a commission sharing arrangement with the hedge fund client, and he was responsible for reviewing that arrangement and the head traderís trading activities. The firmís procedures required the chief compliance officer (CCO) to periodically review emails firm personnel sent and received. Sencan failed to perform periodic reviews of the head traderís electronic correspondence or otherwise take reasonable steps to supervise his activities.

Acting through its FINOP, the firm misused at least $61,000 in funds on deposit with the firm. 

Sencan was the FINOPís direct supervisor but failed to monitor the firmís financial records, perform periodic reviews of the FINOPís electronic correspondence or otherwise take reasonable steps to supervise the FINOPís activities.

Sencan became the firmís AMLCO, and in this position, he was responsible for ensuring that the firmís AML compliance procedures (AMLCP) were enforced but failed to do so. The CIP portion of the firmís AMLCP required the firm, prior to opening an account, to obtain identifying information such as the customerís passport number and country of origin; but acting through Sencan, the firm failed to obtain the identifying information the CIP required for some of its customers (a portion of whom were located outside of the United States). In addition, the firmís AMLCP required the firm to maintain transmittal orders for wire transfers of more than $3,000, and those orders had to contain at least the name and address of the transmitter and recipient, the amount of the transmittal order, the identity of the recipientís financial institution and the recipientís account number; on numerous occasions, a firm customer account wired out funds in excess of $3,000. Sencan did not take steps to ensure that the firm retained information regarding those wires, including the recipientís name, address and account number and the identity of the recipientís financial information. Furthermore, acting through Sencan, the firm failed to provide AML training to its registered personnel.

Sencan was attempting to find transactional business for the firm in medium-term notes (MTNs).  As part of an effort to purchase MTNs for resale to its clients, the firm entered into an agreement with a Switzerland-based entity. Sencan signed the agreement on the firmís behalf, and the agreement called for the entity to provide the firm with the opportunity to purchase $100 million (face value) in specified MTNs; however, the agreement included clauses containing material misrepresentations about the firmís ability to purchase MTNs.

The first clause represented that the firm was the actual legal and beneficial owner of cash funds in excess of $100 million on deposit at a major bank. In addition, the second clause was a representation that these funds were free and clear of liens, had been legally earned and could immediately be utilized for the purchase of financial instruments; neither of these clauses was true, as the firm never had $100 million on deposit at any bank at any time.

Yaman Huseyin Sencan (Principal): Fined $20,000; Barred in Principal capacity only; Suspended 6 months in all capacities.
Tags:  Commissions    Correspondence    Trading    AML    CCO    CIP    FINOP     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
September 2011
Ayre Investments, Inc. and Timothy Tilton Ayre (Principal)
OS/2009016252601/September 2011

Acting through Ayre, its CCO, Ayre Investments failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system and establish, maintain and enforce WSPs to supervise the activities of each registered person that were reasonably designed to achieve compliance with the applicable rules and regulations related to

  • CRD pre-registration checks,
  • exception report maintenance and review,
  • supervisory branch office inspections,
  • approval of transactions by a registered securities principal,
  • annual compliance meeting,
  • financial and operations principal (FINOP) review of checks received and disbursements blotter,
  • NASD Rule 3012 annual report to senior management,
  • review and retention of correspondence, Regulation S-P and outsourcing arrangements.

The Firm's WSPs were purchased from a third-party vendor and were intended to meet the needs of any broker-dealer, regardless of the firmís size or business. Acting through Ayre, the Firm failed to tailor the template WSPs to address the firmís particular business activities. With respect to the areas identified above, the firmís WSPs failed to describe with reasonable specificity the identity of the person who would perform the relevant supervisory reviews and how and when those reviews would be conducted; and with respect to the maintenance of electronic communications, the firm completely failed to establish, maintain and enforce any supervisory system and/or WSPs reasonably designed to ensure that all business-related emails were retained.

Acting through Ayre, the Firm violated the terms of a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) by failing to file a required written certification with FINRA regarding the firmís WSPs within 90 days of the issuance of the AWC. Despite being given multiple reminders and opportunities by FINRA staff during a routine examination to file the certification, the firm and Ayre have yet to file the certification the AWC required.

The Firm only had one registered options principal (ROP) who was required to review and approve all of the firmís option trades; for more than half a year, however, the ROP resided in another state and did not work in the firmís main office. Furthermore, the firmís WSPs did not address or explain how the ROP, given his remote location, was to accomplish and document the contemporaneous review and approval of all options trades firm customers placed; the firm executed approximately 450 options transactions, none of which the ROP approved.

The firm failed to maintain and preserve all of its business-related electronic communications, and therefore willfully violated Securities Exchange Act Rule 17a-4.

The Firm permitted its registered representatives to use email to conduct business when the firm did not have a system for email surveillance or archiving. Each firm representative maintained electronic communications on his or her personal computer or arranged for the retention of electronic communications in some other fashion, and the firm relied on representatives to forward or copy their businessrelated emails to the firmís home office for retention. Not all of the representativesí business-related emails were forwarded to the home office, and the firm did not retain the electronic communications that were not forwarded or copied to the firmís home office; as a result, the firm failed to maintain and preserve at least 10,000 business-related electronic communications representatives sent to or received.

Ayre Investments, Inc.: Censured; Fined $10,000  (note: FINRA states that it imposed a lower fine against the firm after it considered, among other things, the firmís revenues and financial resources); Undertakes to review its supervisory systems and WSPs for compliance with FINRA rules and federal securities laws and regulations, including those laws, regulations and rules concerning the preservation of electronic mail communications, and certify in writing to FINRA, within 90 days, that the firm has in place systems and procedures to achieve compliance with those rules, laws and regulations.

Timothy Tilton Ayre: Fined $10,000; Suspended 2 months in Principal capacity only.

Tags:  Email    Electronic Communications    Annual Compliance Meeting    FINOP    Regulation S-P    Options     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Bill Singer's Comment

A well-presented and well-documented FINRA report -- compliments on that!  The alleged violations clearly indicate lapses and the issue of the failed follow-up on the AWC is as inexcusable a compliance miscue as there is. 

The one quibble I have is with the WSP, and it's an old issue for me.  When a firm is admitted to FINRA membership, it must submit its proposed WSP for approval.  It absolutely drives me nuts when a specific WSP was approved as part of the firm's initial membership or a continued membership application and then, miraculously, a year or so later that same document is suddenly deemed to be non-compliant.  I would argue that it is incumbent upon FINRA to meaningful eyeball a member's WSP and to put the firm on prompt notice of any deficiencies -- in contrast to playing gotcha after no examiner cited any shortcomings during a prior review.  Whether these circumstance apply in this case, I do not know -- nonetheless, I will argue until my last breath that regulators need to play fair with this issue.

May 2011
Weston International Capital Markets LLC
AWC/2009016198601/May 2011
The Firm did not retain certain books and records that were required to be retained pursuant to SEC Rule 17a-4, including employment applications, signed original Uniform Applications for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer (Forms U4), articles of incorporation, records of internal inspections, and compliance, supervisory and procedures manuals, including updates, modifications and revisions. The firm failed to properly designate a registered FINOP, but continued to file FOCUS reports as required. The firm had at least one affiliated entity for which a website was established that referenced the firmís broker-dealer business, and he website was never filed with and approved by FINRAís Advertising Regulation Department within 10 days of first use or publication, and the firm did not evidence that the website had been approved by a registered principal by signature or initial. The firm failed to conduct AML testing and training, and failed to timely file a quarterly FOCUS report.
Weston International Capital Markets LLC : Censured; Fined $15,000
Tags:  FINOP    AML    Website     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
March 2011
Teri Sue Shepherd (Principal)
AWC/2009017136101/March 2011
Acting through Shepherd, her member firm conducted a securities business while failing to maintain adequate net capital. Shepherd caused the firmís net-capital violations by improperly treating a debt the firmís parent company owned as an allowable asset for purposes of its net-capital calculations, and improperly treating as allowable the excess amount of concessions receivable for trails over the amount of corresponding commissions payable.
Teri Sue Shepherd (Principal): Fined $7,500; Suspended 45 days in Principal capacity only; Required to requalify by examination before acting in any FINOP capacity with any FINRA registered broker-dealer.
Tags:  FINOP    Net Capital     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Bill Singer's Comment
The main interest in this case is the somewhat rare sanction upon a FINOP and the requirement to requalify in that capacity.
Enforcement Actions
Tags
Email Bill Singer Connect with Bill Singer on Facebook Follow Bill Singer on Twitter Link up with Bill Singer on LinkedIn Join Bill Singer on Google+