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.
September 2011
Veritrust Financial, LLC
AWC/2008011640802/September 2011

The Firm failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system or WSPs reasonably designed to detect and prevent the charging of excessive commissions on mutual fund liquidation transactions.

The Firm failed to put in place any supervisory systems or procedures to ensure that customers were not inadvertently charged commissions, in addition to the various fees disclosed in the mutual fund prospectus, on their mutual fund liquidation transactions. The firmís failure to take such action resulted in commissions being charged on transactions in customer accounts that generated approximately $64,110 in commissions for the firm.

The firm had inadequate supervisory systems and procedures to ensure that a firm principal reviewed, and the firm retained, all email correspondence for the requisite time period; the firm failed to review and retain securities-related email correspondence sent and received on at least one registered representativeís outside email account, and the firm did not have a system or procedures in place to prevent or detect non-compliance.

The firm failed to conduct an annual inspection of all of its Offices of Supervisory Jurisdiction (OSJ) branch offices.

The Firm failed to comply with various FINRA advertising provisions in connection with certain public communications, including websites, one billboard and one newsletter, in that a registered principal had not approved websites prior to use; websites did not contain a hyperlink to FINRAís or Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)ís website; one website, the billboard and the newsletter failed to maintain a copy of the communication beginning on the first date of use; and sections of websites that concerned registered investment companies were either not filed, or timely filed, with FINRAís Advertising Regulation Department. In addition, websites contained information that was not fair and balanced, did not provide a sound basis for evaluating the facts represented, or omitted material facts regarding equity indexed annuities, fixed annuities and variable annuities. Moreover, websites contained false, exaggerated, unwarranted or misleading statements concerning mutual B shares; the firmís websites and the billboard did not prominently disclose the firmís name, and a website, in connection with a discussion of mutual funds, failed to disclose standardized performance data, failed to disclose the maximum sales charge or maximum deferred sales charge and failed to identify the total annual fund operating expense ratio, and a website, in a comparison between exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds failed to disclose all material differences between the two products.

Furthermore,the firm failed to report, or to timely report, certain customer complaints as required; the firm also failed to timely update a registered representativeís Uniform Termination Notice for Securities Industry Registration (Form U5) to disclose required information. The firm failed to create and maintain a record of a customer complaint and related records that included the complainantís name, address, account number, date the complaint was received, name of each associated person identified in the complaint, description of the nature of the complaint, disposition of the complaint or, alternatively, failed to maintain a separate file that contained this information.

The firm failed to ensure that all covered persons, including the firmís president and CEO, completed the Firm Element of Continuing Education (CE). The firmís 3012 and 3013 reports were inadequate, in that the 3012 report for one year was inadequate because it failed to provide a rationale for the areas that would be tested, failed to detail the manner and method for testing and verifying that the firmís system of supervisory policies and procedures were designed to achieve compliance with applicable rules and laws, did not provide a summary of the test results and gaps found, failed to detect repeat violations including failure to conduct annual OSJ branch office inspections, advertising violations, customer complaint reporting, and ensuring that all covered persons participated in the Firm Element of CE. FINRA also found that the firmís 3013 report for that year did not document the processes for establishing, maintaining, reviewing, testing and modifying compliance policies to achieve compliance with applicable NASD rules, MSRB rules and federal securities laws, and the manner and frequency with which the processes are administered. In addition, the firm also failed to enforce its 3013 procedures regarding notification from customers regarding address changes.

Veritrust Financial, LLC : Censured; Fined $90,000; Ordered pay $34,105.40, plus interest, in restitution to customers
Tags:  Email    WSPs    Commissions    Annual Compliance Certification    OSJ     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Bill Singer's Comment
If this case were a pinball machine, I think it likely would have hit the all-time highest score.  The scope of these violations are impressive.
August 2011
Trustmont Financial Group, Inc. and Peter Daniel Dochinez (Principal)
AWC/2009016311801/August 2011

The Firm failed to develop and enforce written procedures reasonably designed to achieve compliance with NASDģ Rule 3010(d)(2) regarding the review of electronic correspondence. Although the firm had certain relevant procedures in place, it did not have a satisfactory system for providing designated principals with access to such correspondence for review; instead, the firm relied on registered representatives to forward any emails involving customers to a central email address, which was accessible to the firmís president and chief compliance officer (CCO), for review.

The firm did not have effective procedures to monitor its representativesí compliance with the email forwarding requirement; instead the firm relied on branch inspections to monitor compliance, but, because the firmís branch offices were non-Office of Supervisory Jurisdictionís (OSJs), they were inspected infrequentlyóonce every three years.

During the infrequent branch office inspections, the firm generally failed to conduct adequate reviews of representativesí personal computers to determine if they were complying with the email forwarding requirement; other than some very limited reviews during the inspections, the firm failed to provide for surveillance and follow-up to ensure that email correspondence review procedures were implemented and adhered to.

The firm failed to enforce its written procedures requiring a designated principal to conduct a daily review of business-related electronic correspondence and to evidence that review by initialing the correspondence.

Acting through Dochinez, the firmís president, chief executive officer (CEO) and a firm principal, failed to establish, maintain and enforce an adequate system of supervisory control policies and procedures that tested and verified that its supervisory procedures were reasonably designed with respect to the activities of the firm, its registered representatives and associated persons to achieve compliance with applicable securities laws and regulations, and created additional or amended supervisory procedures where the need was identified by such testing and verification. In addition, The firmís supervisory control policies and procedures failed to address the requirements of designating a principal responsible for the firmís supervisory control policies and procedures; testing and verification to ensure reasonably-designed supervisory procedures; updating the firmís written supervisory procedures (WSPs) to address deficiencies noted during testing; designating a principal responsible for the annual report to senior management on the firmís system of supervisory controls procedures, summary of test results, significant identified exceptions, and any additional or amended procedures; identifying producing managers and assigning qualified principals to supervise such managers; using the ďlimited size and resourcesĒ exception for producing managersí supervision, including documenting the factors relied on in determining that the exception is necessary; electronically notifying FINRA of its reliance on the limited size and resources exception; reviewing and monitoring all transmittals of customer funds and securities; reviewing, monitoring and validating customer changes of address and customer changes of investment objectives; and providing heightened supervision over each producing managerís activities. Moreover,acting through Dochinez, the firm failed to conduct independent tests of its AMLCP.

Trustmont Financial Group, Inc.: Censured; Fined $10,000 joint/several; Fined additional $20,000

Peter Daniel Dochinez: Censured; Fined $10,000 joint/several

Tags:  Electronic Communications    Email    Inspections    OSJ     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Bill Singer's Comment
A growing area of focus for FINRA is the diligence of a member's policies/procedures for reviewing electronic communications -- and if you're relying upon the honor system, the regulator is just not going to be happy. 
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