The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned and barred broker Douglas Melzer (Melzer) concerning allegations that between November 2011, and May 2012, while registered with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (Wells Fargo), Melzer solicited four customers to invest $2,000,000 in an outside investment without providing his firm notice. According to FINRA Melzer was compensated at least $26,500. Unapproved sales activities and transactions are referred to as “selling away” in the industry.
Melzer entered the securities industry in 2008 when he became registered with Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo terminated Melzer’s registration in January 2013 in connection with his unapproved sales activity. Melzer was registered with Park Avenue Securities LLC from March 2013, through January 2015.
The conduct alleged against Melzer is a “selling away” securities violations. In the industry the term selling away refers to when a financial advisor solicits investments in companies, promissory notes, or other securities that are not pre-approved by the broker’s affiliated firm. However, even though the brokerage firm claim ignorance of their advisor’s activities, under the FINRA rules, a brokerage firm owes a duty to properly monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion. In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public. Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system. Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.