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.
November 2011
Dennis Lee Grossman (Principal)
OS/2008011672301/November 2011

As the AMLCO and president of his member firm,  Grossman failed to demonstrate that he implemented and followed sufficient AML procedures to adequately detect and investigate potentially suspicious activity

Grossman did not consider the AML procedures and rules to be applicable to the type of accounts held at the firm and therefore did not adequately utilize, monitor or review for red flags listed in the firmís procedures. His daily review of trades executed at the firm and all outgoing cash journals and wires, Grossman did not identify any activity of unusual size, volume or pattern as an AML concern. The firmís registered representatives, who were also assigned responsibility for monitoring their own accounts, failed to report any suspicious activity to Grossman. Until the SEC and/or FINRA alerted Grossman to red flags of suspicious conduct, Grossman did not file any SARs.

Grossman failed to implement adequate procedures reasonably designed to detect and cause the reporting of suspicious transactions and, even with those minimal procedures that he had in place at the firm, he still failed to adequately implement or enforce the firmís own AML program. For example, accounts were opened at the firm within a short period of each other that engaged in similar activity in many of the same penny stocks, and several red flags existed in connection with these accounts that should have triggered Grossmanís obligations to undertake scrutiny of the accounts, as set out in the firmís procedures, including possibly filing a SAR.  Additionally,individuals associated with the accounts had prior disciplinary histories, including securities fraud and/or money laundering. Because of Grossmanís failure to effectively identify and investigate suspicious activity,he often failed to identify transactions potentially meriting reporting through the filing of SARs. Moreover, Grossman failed to implement an adequate AML training program for appropriate personnel; the AML training conducted was not provided to all of the registered representatives at the firm. 

Furthermore, Grossman failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system at the firm to address the firmís responsibilities for determining whether customer securities were properly registered or exempt from registration under Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act) and, as a result, Grossman failed to take steps, including conducting a searching inquiry, to ascertain whether these securities were freely tradeable or subject to an exemption from registration and not in contravention of Section 5 of the Securities Act. The firm did not have a system in place, written or unwritten, to determine whether customer securities were properly registered or exempt from registration under Section 5 of the Securities Act; Grossman relied solely upon the clearing firm, assuming that if the stocks were permitted to be sold by the clearing firm, then his firm was compliant with Section 5 of the Securities Act. 

Grossman failed to designate a principal to test and verify the reasonableness of the firmís supervisory system, and failed to establish, maintain and enforce written supervisory control policies and procedures at the firm and failed to designate and specifically identify to FINRA at least one principal to test and verify that the firmís supervisory system was reasonable to establish, maintain and enforce a system of supervisory control policies and procedures.

The firm created a report, which was deficient in several areas, including in its details of the firmís system of supervisory controls, procedures for conducting tests and gaps analysis, and identities of responsible persons or departments for required tests and gaps analysis. Grossman made annual CEO certifications, certifying that the firm had in place processes to establish, maintain, review, test and modify written compliance policies and WSPs to comply with applicable securities rules and registrations; the certifications were deficient in that they failed to include certain information, including whether the firm has in place processes to establish, maintain and review policies and procedures designed to achieve compliance with applicable laws and regulations and whether the firm has in place processes to modify such policies and procedures as business, regulatory and legislative events dictate. 

Grossman failed to ensure that the firmís heightened supervisory procedures placed on a registered representative were reasonably designed and implemented to address the conduct cited within SECís allegations; the additional supervisory steps imposed by Grossman to be taken for the registered representative were no different than ordinary supervisory requirements. Moreover, there was a conflict of interest between the registered representative and the principal assigned to monitor the registered representativeís actions at the firm;namely, the principal had a financial interest in not reprimanding or otherwise hindering the registered representativeís actions. Furthermore,Grossman was aware of this conflict, yet nonetheless assigned the principal to conduct heightened supervision over the registered representative. 

The heightened supervisory procedures Grossman implemented did not contain any explanation of how the supervision was to be evidenced, and the firm failed to provide any evidence that heightened supervision was being conducted on the registered representative. Also, Grossman entered into rebate arrangements with customers without maintaining the firmís required minimum net capital. Similarly, he caused the firm to engage in a securities business when the firmís net capital was below the required minimum and without establishing a reserve bank account or qualifying for an exemption. Grossman was required to perform monthly reserve computations and to make deposits into a special reserve bank account for the exclusive benefit of customers, but failed to do so.

Dennis Lee Grossman (Principal): Fined $75,000; Suspended 4 months in Principal capacity only
Bill Singer's Comment
A concise rendition by FINRA.  Assuming that the allegations are not over-blown, the sanctions here are fair and responsive to the cited misconduct.  With year-end upon us, it would be a worthwhile exercise for many of you to read this case and use it as a checklist -- how do you measure up?
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