Merrill Lynch Faces $1M FINRA Fine Over Texas Ponzi Scam by Former Registered Representative

Two years after San Antonio broker was sentenced to prison for Texas securities fraud, FINRA has fined Merrill Lynch $1M for not properly supervising its former employer. These failures allegedly allowed Bruce Hammonds to run a Ponzi scam that defrauded investors of $1.4M.

Hammonds persuaded 11 people to invest in the Texas Ponzi scam, which he operated under the name B&J Partnership. It was supervisors at Merrill Lynch that gave the green light for him to open an account for B & J. The supervisors also are accused of not monitoring the funds that moved between customers and Hammonds.

Rather than putting investors’ money in a Merrill Lynch fund, he put $1.4 million of their funds in his working capital account. He even gave clients charts showing how the B & J fund was performing even though the fund wasn’t real. Hammonds used the money to pay for his personal spending, including a supposed house-flipping business.

He later pleaded guilty to federal securities charges. In addition to five years behind bars and three year supervised release. Hammond has been barred from the securities industry. All investors have been paid back in full for their losses.

In deciding to fine Merrill Lynch, FINRA found that the financial firm did not have a supervisory system that did a satisfactory enough job of monitoring accounts of employees for signs of possible misconduct. The system was only able to immediately capture accounts opened by an employee if he/she used his/her social security number as the main tax identification number. The SRO also said that between 1/06 and 6/10 Merrill Lynch did not monitor another 40,000 employee/employee-interested accounts.

By agreeing to settle, Merrill is not denying or admitting to the charges.

Failure to Supervise
It is a brokerage firm’s responsibility to establish written procedures for how to properly supervise its employees’ activities. These procedures must then be implemented to prevent broker fraud. When misconduct does arise and failure to supervise played a role in allowing the incident to happen, the financial firm can be held liable for securities fraud.

Brokerage companies have to supervise every broker that they license to work for them. Even if an accused broker is later found not liable, there is still a possibility that the brokerage firm or supervisor can be held liable for failure to supervise and be ordered to pay damages. For example, a broker may not have received the proper training or was given the wrong information by the financial firm, and this resulted in Texas securities fraud that caused an investor to suffer losses.

FINRA Fines Merrill Lynch $1 Million for Supervisory Failures That Allowed a Registered Representative to Operate a Ponzi Scheme, FINRA, October 4, 2011
Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP is Investigating Merrill Lynch in Light of Recent FINRA Fines Against the Firm for Failure to Supervise, MarketWatch, October 5, 2011
More Blog Posts:
Former Merrill Lynch Employee, Guilty of $1.4 Million Texas Securities Fraud Scheme, Receives Prison Term, Stock Broker Fraud Blog, October 5, 2009
Wedbush Securities Ordered by FINRA to Pay $2.8M in Senior Financial Fraud Case Over Variable Annuities, Stock Broker Fraud Blog, August 31, 2011
Actions of Former Ferris, Baker Watts, Inc. General Counsel Accused of Supervising Rogue Broker to be Reviewed by SEC, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, December 9, 2010
It is important that you speak with an experienced Texas securities fraud law firm to find out whether you have a case.