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FINRA Fines For Mutual Fund Sales Practices

In or about 2009, FINRA fined 25 broker-dealers a total of $2,145,000 for failures related to their completion of FINRA’s (then NASD’s) firm self-assessment of mutual fund breakpoint discount compliance.

The self-assessment required firms that sold front-end load mutual funds to review their compliance in providing breakpoint discounts to customers during 2001 and 2002 and report those results to FINRA. Breakpoint discounts are volume discounts applicable to front-end sales charges (front-end loads) on Class A mutual fund shares. The self-assessment followed findings by NASD, the NYSE and the Securities and Exchange Commission that nearly one in three mutual fund transactions that appeared eligible for a breakpoint discount did not receive one.

The findings made in the settlements resulted from FINRA’s review of firms’ compliance with the self-assessment requirements. The violations include failing to accurately report information; failing to send timely notices and responses to customers concerning the availability of breakpoint discounts; failing to provide timely refunds for missed breakpoints to customers; and failing to correctly calculate such refunds.

In addition, FINRA found that three firms — Fox & Company Investments, Inc., First Midwest Securities, Inc. and Chase Investment Services, Corp. — failed to deliver breakpoint discounts during a later review period and continued to fail to have reasonable written supervisory procedures in place to assure that appropriate breakpoint discounts would be delivered to their customers during that later period.

In its review, FINRA found that 14 firms — J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons Inc., New England Securities, SunAmerica Securities, Inc., Multi-Financial Securities Corporation, H. Beck, Inc., Leonard & Company, Fox & Company Investments, Inc., Investors Capital Corp., vFinance Investments, Inc., FSC Securities Corporation, National Securities Corporation, Advantage Capital Corporation, Steven L. Falk & Associates, Inc. and Securities America, Inc. — failed to accurately and/or fully complete their self-assessments.

FINRA further found that six of the firms — Multi-Financial Securities Corporation, Intersecurities Inc., SWS Financial Services, Spelman & Co. Inc., Securities America, Inc., and SIGMA Financial Corporation — failed to accurately complete a comprehensive trade-by-trade review of transactions. The trade-by-trade review was a required part of their customer remediation process following the self-assessment.

Six firms — ProEquities, Inc., FSC Securities Corporation, Lincoln Investment Planning, Inc., New England Securities, Gary Goldberg & Co., Inc., and Leonard & Company — failed to provide timely refunds of breakpoint discounts to their customers. In addition, five firms — Leonard & Company, Gary Goldberg & Co., Inc., Financial West Group, GunnAllen Financial, Inc. and ProEquities, Inc. — failed to notify their customers on a timely basis — or failed to notify them at all — of the potential for reimbursement for missed breakpoint discounts. In addition, GunnAllen and ProEquities did not timely respond to customer inquiries about breakpoint discounts.

The names of the firms charged and fines assessed are:

J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons Inc.
New England Securities
SunAmerica Securities, Inc.
Multi-Financial Securities Corporation
H. Beck, Inc.
SWS Financial Services
Leonard & Company
Securities America, Inc.
SIGMA Financial Corporation
Intersecurities, Inc.
Fox & Company Investments Inc.
Chase Investment Services Corp.
vFinance Investments, Inc.
Investors Capital Corp.
ProEquities, Inc.
National Securities Corporation
Gary Goldberg & Co., Inc
FSC Securities Corporation
Lincoln Investment Planning, Inc.
Spelman & Co.
Stephen L. Falk & Associates, Inc.
First Midwest Securities, Inc.
GunnAllen Financial, Inc.
Advantage Capital Corporation
Financial West Group

The fines for two firms — New England Securities and H. Beck, Inc. — include other charges in addition to breakpoint self-assessment failures. The additional findings against H. Beck relate to fee-based brokerage violations. Additional findings against New England Securities involve anti-money laundering violations, customer complaint and other reporting violations and supervisory deficiencies.

All 25 firms settled these matters without admitting or denying the findings, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.

If you have questions about investments you made with these firms, The White Law Group may be able to help.  For a free consultation, call the firm at 312-238-9650.

The White Law Group, LLC is a national securities fraud, securities arbitration, investor protection, and securities regulation/compliance law firm with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Boca Raton, Florida. With over 30 years of securities law experience, including experience working at FINRA (f/k/a the NASD) and the SEC, The White Law Group has the expertise to help investors defrauded in securities, investment and financial business transactions.

For more information on The White Law Group, please visit our website at https://whitesecuritieslaw.com.

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