The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in an acceptance, waiver, and consent action (AWC) barred broker Eric Johnson (Johnson) concerning allegations that Johnson misappropriated more than $1,000,000 from at least six firm customers’ brokerage accounts. FINRA also alleged that Johnson falsified the signatures of two firm employees and notarized seals on firm documents. Finally, Johnson failed to provide documents, information, and on-the-record testimony during FINRA’s investigation of this matter.
Johnson first became registered with FINRA in 1991. In March 1999, Johnson became registered with RedRidge Securities, Inc. (RedRidge). Johnson operates out of his DBA business called HD Brent & Company (HD Brent). RedRidge terminated Johnson’s registration on September 24, 2014, in connection with the firm’s investigation concerning the alleged theft of customer funds. RedRidge may have only become aware of the misappropriation of funds when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) contacted the firm concerning their investigation of Johnson.
FINRA alleged that from approximately December 2006, through September 2014, Johnson misappropriated more than $1,000,000 in customer funds. FINRA determined that Johnson made at least 60 wire transfers from at least six firm customers’ brokerage accounts to his own personal bank accounts. The wire transfers required the signature of a firm principal and the signature and seal of the firm’s notary public that FINRA alleged Johnson falsified in order to effectuate the transfers. Given that Johnson’s activities took place over the course of eight years it is astonishing that RedRidge did not supervise and detect Johnson’s activities sooner.
NASD Rule 2330(a), and FINRA Rule 2150(a), prohibits the “improper use of a customer’s securities or funds.” NASD Rule 2110, and FINRA Rule 2010, requires brokers to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade in connection with their business. FINRA found that by misappropriating customer brokerage funds totaling more than $1,000,000, Johnson violated these rules.