The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned financial advisor James Applewhite (Applewhite) concerning allegations that from about January 2010, through October 2012, Applewhite exercised discretion by effecting approximately 171 transactions in eight customer accounts without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers and without having the accounts accepted as discretionary accounts as required by NASD Rule 2510(b). FINRA found that the discretion was generally exercised pursuant to a strategy previously agreed upon with the customers. Nonetheless, FINRA alleged the firm did not permit discretionary trading, except for managed accounts, with pre-approved written discretion. As a result FINRA found that Applewhite violated NASD Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010.
Applewhite entered the securities industry in November 1983. During all periods mentioned in the FINRA finding he was associated with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. Applewhite’s employment with Wells Fargo ended on October 22, 2012. Thereafter, Applewhite became registered with BB&T Securities, L.L.C f/k/a Scott & Stringfellow, LLC.
The allegations made against Applewhite constitute unauthorized trading. Unauthorized trading occurs when a broker sells, buys, or exchanges, securities without the prior consent or authority from the investor. Unless an investor gives discretion to make trades, the broker must first discuss all trades with the investor before executing them. Even if the a customer verbally grants a broker discretion such an agreement is not valid under industry rules The SEC has found that unauthorized trading also constitutes securities fraud due to its fraudulent nature. No omission of information could be more material than the failure to inform the investor of his or her own purchases and sales.