Enforcement Actions
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
CASES OF NOTE
2010
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 2010
Thomas Michael Petracek
AWC/2008015144802/November 2010

Petracek recommended the purchase of a fixed and variable annuity to a customer, and since he was not registered with any FINRA member firm, he was unable to sign the annuity application. Petracekís relative became associated with a member firm, signed the customerís annuity application and submitted it to his firm, and the annuity company listed the relative as the introducing agent after discussing the matter with principals of the firm. Petracek knew his relative was not present when the customer signed the annuity application or during any of his meetings with the customer at which the annuity was discussed, and he knew that his relative never met or spoke with the customer. 

Petracek became registered at the same firm as his relative, and the annuity transaction settled the day after Petracek became registered. Petracekís relative later received a commission payment of approximately $50,500 for the annuity sale from the firm, which he shared with Petracek, and Petracek did not disclose to the firm that he shared in this commission payment.

During his employment at the firm, Petracek continuously served as the registered representative responsible for advising the customer on the annuity and for servicing the customerís account in which the annuity was held at the firm, although the relativeís name remained on the account as the responsible agent. In addition, Petracek failed to take any steps to correctly disclose on the firmís books and records that heónot his relativeówas the responsible representative, rendering the firmís records inaccurate.

Thomas Michael Petracek : Fined $10,000; Suspended 3 months
Tags:  Annuity    Variable Annuity    Unregistered Person     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
October 2010
Renee Lynn Coil
AWC/2008014756401/October 2010

Coil failed to

  • determine the surrender fees related to variable annuity exchanges she recommended to a customer, and the customer agreed to the exchanges based on his understanding that there was no penalty associated with the exchanges; 
  • perform adequate analysis on the variable annuities to determine their surrender periods and the customer was charged surrender fees totaling $26,286.84; and
  • ensure that the imposition of the surrender fees was accurately disclosed on her member firmís variable annuity switch form.

If the customer had held the variable annuities for two additional months, he would not have incurred the fees.

Renee Lynn Coil : No Fine in light of financial status; Suspended 1 month
Tags:  Surrender Charge    Variable Annuity     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
September 2010
Michael Aaron Brady
AWC/2010022037401/September 2010
Brady converted a total of $194,424.81 from customers who entrusted him with money to invest and, instead, misappropriated the funds for his own personal use. One customer gave Brady over $90,000 to invest in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and in a Section 529 college tuition plan account but Brady used the money for personal purposes. In one instance, Brady created a fictitious account statement that falsely showed that the customerís account increased from about $37,000 to over $48,000 in one year; but, in fact, Brady never invested the customerís money and had converted over $56,000 of the customerís money to his personal use. In another instance, a customer surrendered a variable annuity and paid the proceeds to Brady to re-invest in another variable annuity; Brady did not do so and misappropriated the funds, which exceeded $41,000.
Michael Aaron Brady : Barred
William Gregory Slonecker
2007009442501/September 2010

Slonecker recommended and executed unsuitable variable annuity contract replacements or switches involving customers without regard for their age or financial backgrounds, and received $85,000 in commissions. Sloneckerís customers received no significant benefit from the transactions but incurred substantial surrender charges, new extended surrender periods and, in some cases, paid additional fees.

Slonecker made numerous false entries in his member firmís electronic order-entry system and on other firm records to obtain approval for the switches he recommended to the customers, causing his firm to create and maintain inaccurate books and records. Sloneckerís false entries in the firmís electronic order-entry system and suitability questionnaires were material false representations he made to his firm.

Slonecker falsely represented to customers that surrender fees associated with the switches would be fully recovered by the bonuses they would receive from their purchases of new variable annuity contracts, when he knew or should have known that the bonuses did not offset the surrender fees and he failed to disclose and explain to the customers the surrender charges associated with switch transactions.

Slonecker failed to respond to FINRA requests for information.

William Gregory Slonecker: Barred
Tags:  Variable Annuity    Suitability    Surrender Charges     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
William Ray Collins Jr
AWC/2008013648001/September 2010

Collins forged customersí signatures on financial documents and submitted the documents to his member firm and failed to send a copy to the customers.

Collins failed to disclose a variable annuity service fee in his discussion with customers and, when the customers inquired about the fee, Collins told them that the fee was an error; and to avoid further inquiries he used his own funds to pay the fee without informing the firm or the customers. Collins accomplished his payment of the fees when he executed money orders on the customersí behalf, forged the customersí signatures on the money orders and submitted the money orders to the firm to pay the variable annuity fees that he had not disclosed to the customers.

William Ray Collins Jr: Barred
Tags:  Signature        Forgery    Variable Annuity    Guaranteeing Against Losses         |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
August 2010
Jarem Barry Bingham
AWC/2009017621401/August 2010
Bingham gave a member firm customer $4,421 to compensate her for tax consequences incurred as a result of his recommendation that the customer liquidate a variable annuity and purchase mutual funds with the proceeds. Bingham acted without his firmís knowledge or authorization when sharing in the customerís loss, and his firmís procedures prohibited representatives from paying or offering to pay restitution to a customer. Bingham loaned customers approximately $1,050 because of delays in processing their withdrawal requests, which the firmís procedures prohibited.
Jarem Barry Bingham : Fined $10,000; Suspended 15 business days
Tags:  Guaranteeing Against Losses    Loan    Variable Annuity     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Leo Timothy Buggy (Principal)
OS/2008016455801/August 2010
Buggy misappropriated approximately $589,000 intended for investment by soliciting customers to withdraw funds from their existing firm variable annuity and/or brokerage accounts and invest the withdrawn amounts in what he represented to be safer, higher-yield investments with Buggyís member firmís affiliate. Buggy not only failed to invest the funds received from the customers in safer, higher-yield products with the affiliate, but failed to invest the funds at all.Buggy caused the funds to be deposited into an account he controlled and made improper use of the funds. Buggy failed to respond to FINRA requests for information and documents.
Leo Timothy Buggy (Principal): Barred
Tags:  Variable Annuity     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Mark Andrew Jamgochian
AWC/2009018304601/August 2010
Jamgochian cut-and-pasted customersí signatures on account-related documents without the customersí authorization or consent. The documents were all variable annuity applications for transactions that the customers previously authorized.
Mark Andrew Jamgochian : Fiend $5,000; Suspended 3 months
Tags:  Signature    Variable Annuity     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
April 2010
Douglas Richard Smith (Principal)
OS/2008012211601/April 2010
Smith effected, without the customerís knowledge, authorization and consent, the surrender and liquidation of a variable annuity in the customerís account, and used the proceeds to purchase a variable annuity issued by another insurance company for the customerís account. To effect the unauthorized transactions for the customer, Smith, without the customerís knowledge, authorization and consent, affixed, or caused to be affixed, the customerís signature and/or initials on five documents. Smith stamped a document with the firmís medallion signature guarantee stamp and placed his signature on the stamp signature line, which had the effect of guaranteeing the customerís signature as genuine.
Douglas Richard Smith (Principal): Fined $5,000; Suspended 18 months in all capacities
Tags:  Variable Annuity     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
March 2010
Leonard Kahn
AWC/2008013363601/March 2010
Registered Principal Kahn sold preferred stock shares of a company to investors, in the approximate amount of $127,000, without prior written notice to, and written approval from, his member firm. One investor was an elderly individual who invested $96,000 that she borrowed from a variable annuity that she had purchased through Kahn several years earlier. The company had paid her approximately $11,000 in annual interest when her Individual Retirement Account (IRA) custodian informed her that the companyís preferred shares had no value and were worthless. Kahn executed and submitted his firmís Private Securities Transactions Certification, in which he falsely certified that he had not participated in any manner in private securities transactions since his employment with the firm.
Leonard Kahn: Fined $10,000; Suspended 6 months
Tags:  Elderly    Variable Annuity     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Bill Singer's Comment

Maybe it's me -- or maybe it's FINRA not fully explaining this case (or over-stating it to give a far worse appearance than it is).  You tell me?  A Principal invests an elderly client in worthless preferred stock using the proceeds of a VA that the Principal had earlier sold the elderly client -- and then the Principal lies about having been involved in any Private Securities Transactions.

Okay, so here's what's troubling me.  FINRA doesn't tell us whether the Principal knew that the elderly client used the VA proceeds to fund the Pfd stock. We also don't know if the Principal solicited the borrowing from the VA, or was even aware of the source of the funds used to buy the Pfd. shares. Frankly, those strike me as important factors.  Of course, there is that very ominous fact that Kahn lied on the certification -- was that intentional or unintentional?  Again, FINRA ain't making that clear.

What I'm trying to understand is why a Principal who engaged in a VA-proceeds transaction that ultimately put an elderly client in worthless Pfd. shares and that same Principal then lies about his PST activity -- why that Principal is only suspended 6 months.  Seems to me, if we make the likely inferences, he should be barred.  However, as with many of these cases, the actual facts may be far more benign; hence, supporting the imposition of the fine and six-months suspension.  Problem is -- we don't know from the official, published, monthly disciplinary squib.  Hide-and-seek?  Is this proper regulation?

February 2010
Hilda Asencio
2008014573101/February 2010
Associated Person Asencio, converted $335,250 from a customerís account by making withdrawals from the customerís variable annuity without his knowledge or consent. Asencio arranged to have the funds sent to a friend, who cashed the checks and forwarded the proceeds to Asencio, who then deposited the funds into her own bank account and used the money for personal expenses. Asencio failed to respond to FINRA requests for information.
Hilda Asencio: Ordered to pay $335,250, plus interest, in restitution to a customer; Barred
Tags:  Variable Annuity    Check     |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Michael Thomas DiPuppo (Supervisor) and Robert Michael DiPuppo
AWC/2008013742101/February 2010
The DiPuppos member firm had in place a supervisory system for the firmís variable annuity transactions specifying that variable annuity transactions that exceeded 50 percent of the lower end of the customerís net worth bracket required additional supervisory review concerning potential liquidity issues. The DiPuppos disagreed with the firmís policy and, to circumvent the system, they altered the net worth of customers to a higher bracket to avoid the 50 percent threshold that would have flagged them on a report and required additional review. By altering customer net worth information, the DiPuppos caused their firmís books and records to be false. Michael DiPuppo failed to carry out supervisory responsibilities to ensure that new account forms and annuity applications documents that Robert DiPuppo and other registered representatives in his branch submitted were accurate

Michael DiPuppo: Fined $15,000; Suspended 90 days in all capacities

Robert DiPuppo: Fined $10,000; Suspended 30 days in all capacities
Tags:  Variable Annuity    Supervision         |    In: Cases of Note : FINRA
Bill Singer's Comment
And, class, what do we learn from this lesson?  That's correct -- you may always disagree with your company's policy but you should never, ever circumvent it.  And for those of you who submitted that extra credit paper, you get ten bonus points for noting that you should never alter customer net worth information.
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