FINRA Fines H & R Block Financial Advisors (Now Ameriprise Advisor Services) over Sales of Reverse Convertible Notes (RCN)

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has fined H&R Block Financial Advisors (now Ameriprise Advisor Services) $200,000 for failing to put in place the proper system to supervise its reverse convertible notes (RCN) sales to retail clients. FINRA also suspended H & R broker Andrew MacGill for 15 days while ordering him to pay a $10,000 fine and $2,023 in disgorgement for making unsuitable RNC sales to a retired couple. MacGill recommended that they invest close to 40% of their total liquid net worth in RCNs. Meantime, H & R Block has been ordered to pay the couple $75,000 in restitution for their financial losses. Without denying or admitting to the charges, the brokerage firm and MacGill consented to the finding’s entry.

According to FINRA, between January 2004 and December 2007, H&R Block sold RCNs without a system of procedures in place to properly monitor whether possible over-concentrations in RCNs were taking place in customer accounts. FINRA says that the brokerage firm relied on an automated surveillance system to monitor client accounts and review securities transactions for unsuitability but that the system was not set up to monitor RCN placement in customer accounts or RCN transactions. This caused H & R Block to miss signs of when there were potentially unsuitable levels of RCN in client accounts. Furthermore, FINRA says that the firm failed to provide guidance to its supervisors regarding the assessment of suitability standards related to their agents’ recommendation of RCNs to the firm’s clients.

This is FINRA’s first enforcement action over RCN sales.

Reverse Convertible Notes
Reverse convertible notes offer a high coupon in return for the risk of getting shares valued at under the initial principal. Richard Ketchum, FINRA chief executive and chairman, has noted that it is not recommended for a client to place a significant chunk of one’s life savings into these kind of high risk, complex investments.

FINRA has issued Notice to Members 10-09 cautioning the entire brokerage community about their sales practice obligations to the investing public when it comes to RCNs and other risky “Complex Investment Vehicles.”

If you think you might have sustained investment losses because of unsuitable reverse convertible notes, contact our securities fraud law firm immediately.

Related Web Resources:
Regulator fines H&R Block $200K for poor controls, MarketWatch, February 16, 2010
Regulatory Notice 10-09, FINRA
FINRA Fines H&R Block Financial Advisors $200,000 for Inadequate Supervision of Reverse Convertible Notes Sales, FINRA/Business Wire, February 16, 2010