SEC Judge Slaps Next Financial Group With $125,000 Fine Over Recruiting Practices

Securities and Exchange Commission Administrative Law Judge James T. Kelly is ordering Next Financial Group Inc. to cease and desist from recruiting practices that violate privacy laws. He also has slapped the company with a $125,000 penalty.

Recruiting practices that need to stop included those involving use of clients’ private information. Next has been known to ask recruits to provide their user id and password so that the firm could enter the computer systems of the recruits’ brokerage firms and collect clients’ non-public personal information.

The SEC had originally requested that the judge impose a $325,000 on Next. Judge Kelly, however, acknowledged that there is general confusion within the securities industry about Regulation S-P, which implements stricter privacy laws under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 2000. However, even Next’s expert witnesses agreed that using the passwords and user ID’s of recruits in this way is not in line with normal industry practices.

Judge Kelly also acknowledged that the SEC did not present any evidence that clients had been “substantially” harmed or inconvenienced by this recruiting practice.

Next Financial reported a gross revenue of $114.3 million in 2007. The independent broker-dealer has about 880 affiliate representatives.

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Related Web Resources:

Next spanked for recruiting practices, InvestmentNews.com, June 18, 2008
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