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If you think the compliance and regulatory nerds at FINRA are slowing down during the COVID-19 pandemic and market downturn, think again. If anything there computer screens, glare-fix glasses, and spreadsheets are running even hotter – knowing that an increase in both customer complaints and advisor infractions are a virtual certainty given the current wealth management climate.

The ‘work from home’ mandate that has essentially stretched across all of wall street and main street is a fertile ground for a cut corner here and a document fudge there. Those cut corners are probably even being encouraged by clients who would rather you handle the details right now then have to meet and do them themselves – you know, the whole social distancing deal. So asking an advisor to finalize a document that has already been signed by the client seems like a meaningless issues, or even helpful at this point. Don’t be that stupid – FINRA staff is waiting for you to make that mistake.

Just ask Claire Cail of Morgan Stanley in Manchester, NH. She just got pinched by FINRA for filling out portions of client documents that the client had already signed. Oof.

Per media reports:

“Claire M. Cail, a former Morgan Stanley broker in Manchester, New Hampshire, altered signed account documents from eight customers by filling in missing information such as an address or telephone number or checking a beneficiary box, the regulator said in a letter of acceptance, waiver and consent that Cail signed without admitting or denying the findings.”

“She also filled out new account and beneficiary forms from a prospect who Morgan Stanley previously rejected by combining them with a prior signature page and submitting them, according to the document that Finra posted on April 2.  The actions caused the firm to violate Finra’s books-and-records rules by maintaining inaccurate data, while Cail violated the regulator’s sweeping Rule 2010 requiring registered reps to observe “high standards of commercial honor,” Finra wrote.”
Read that again and beware the requests of clients who simple don’t know that rules you are to abide by, nor do they care. They simply want things done when they want them done. Clear conversations need to be had, especially in the midst of serious and unique stress, to cover your ass. Or FINRA will take it!
And here is the most distressing part of this story – Ms. Cail didn’t have a single complaint or or disclosure on her record after 25 years of service in the industry. 25 YEARS. Do a client a favor during a pandemic and you will get your legs cut off at the knees. Be very, very careful out there right now; the rest of your career may depend on it.

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