Even though regulators are calling on broker-dealers to employ stricter hiring standards when it comes to screening brokers who have already gotten in trouble for alleged broker misconduct, many firms continue to hire these suspect workers. It doesn’t help that broker-dealers have a tendency to not reveal key details when a registered representative leaves the company under suspect circumstances in order limit the firm’s liability from potential investor lawsuits and arbitration claims.
For example, in 2003, Jeffrey Southard was working for American Express Financial Advisers (now Ameriprise Financial Inc.) when he was accused of selling unregistered securities and combining client funds with his own money. At the time, Southard accused American Express Financial Advisors of falsely accusing him of misdeeds and acting unprofessionally by violating his personal confidentiality. He left the firm to join Gunn-Allen Financial Inc. In July 2008, GunnAllen fired him.
Last month, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities accused the former GunnAllen broker of stealing $1.3 million from 16 senior investors. The state regulators also barred Southard from the securities business and ordered him to pay $50,000 in restitution.
The New Jersey regulators say American Express Financial Advisors failed to properly disclose to clients the problems that could have arisen from working with Southard. The regulators’ order also accuses Southard of misleading his clients. Many of them switched to GunAllen when he left American Express Financial Advisors after he told them that he was leaving was to pursue better opportunities. The New Jersey regulators say that while working with GunnAllen, Southard continued to engage in broker misconduct by selling fake bonds as tax-free investments.
Opinions among industry members are mixed about whether broker-dealers are doing enough to weed out broker candidates with already questionable performance records.
Related Web Resources:
Busted brokers continue bilking clients at new firms, Investment News, December 7, 2008
Ex-GunnAllen broker bilked $1.3M from seniors, Investment News,