FINRA fined Wachovia/Wells Fargo broker Jennifer Marie Burton of Los Angeles, California and suspended her for allegedly stating on Wachovia Securities (since merged with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC) document verification forms that she spoke with a customer when no such conversation ever took place.
FINRA also accused Burton of providing a fictitious purpose for a wire service request in which an impostor pretending to be a firm customer was able to effect a wire transfer of $85,000, due in part, according to the findings, to Burton's misconduct in failing to follow firm policies and procedures meant to prevent or limit such fraudulent activity.
According to FINRA's investigation, in 2012, a person posing as a Wells Fargo customer sent an e-mail to his broker requesting $85,000-worth of wire transfers from the customer's account to a third-party's bank account. The impostor was able to send this e-mail after hacking into the customer's e-mail account.
Because the broker was on vacation at the time, sales assistant Burton was given access and authorization to respond to customer inquiries.
FINRA found that Burton acted on the illegitimate request and proceeded with the wire transfer without first obtaining verbal confirmation from the real customer, a violation of an existing firm rule installed as a safeguard. The firm's second safety requirement for wire transfer requests was a Letter of Authorization ("LOA") that customers were required to sign upon a request for fund transferral to a third party.
The investigation states that Burton provided the requisite LOAs via e-mail to the impostor, upon which the imposter returned the documents via fax, requesting $85,000 in wire transfers to a third party bank account in Australia.
According to FINRA, the returned LOAs included a fake signature and were missing the real customer's account numbers. The LOAs also did not include a purpose for the wire transfers.
The next day, Burton allegedly entered the missing account numbers and inserted a purpose for the wire transfers, falsely stating that she "spoke to the client this morning to confirm the instructions…that the funds are being sent to his business partner in Australia."
FINRA maintains that Burton never spoke with the firm customer and that the impostor never provided Burton with any purpose that included investment strategy or a foreign business partner.
Only when the impostor subsequently attempted to request an additional $75,000 be wired to a bank in Florida and another in Australia did Burton allegedly become suspicious and actually call the real customer to verify the requests. When the customer informed Burton he had not made any wire transfer requests, she purportedly informed Wachovia/Wells Fargo and the firm was able to reverse the wire transfer instructions without any loss to the customer.
After concluding that Burton made false statements in firm books and records, Wachovia/Wells Fargo terminated her employment; Burton subsequently was hired in a registered capacity by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.
If you have invested with Jennifer Marie Burton, Wachovia/Wells Fargo, or with any broker or firm whose misconduct in failing to verify the authenticity of wire transfers or withdrawal instructions has proven harmful to your investments or interests by allowing for a fraudulent or other deceitful scheme or activity to occur, please call The Law Offices of Jonathan W. Evans & Associates at (800) 699-1881 for an investigation and consultation.