FINRA fined and suspended Victor Michel, formerly of Financial West Group in Westlake Village, CA, for using his personal non-firm e-mail account for correspondence with a firm customer concerning securities business, failing to retain e-mail correspondence, and for settling a customer complaint without notifying the firm of the complaint's existence or settlement.
The findings state that Michel used a non-firm approved e-mail address to conduct securities business, in contravention of Financial West Group's written policies and which caused the firm's books and records to become inaccurate and prevented the firm from fulfilling its supervisory and record keeping obligations.
Michel purportedly failed to retain copies of all of the e-mails sent and/or received using his unapproved third-party e-mail account, and similarly failed to cause the securities-related e-mails to be sent or directed to a firm e-mail account, meaning that the firm similarly was unable to obtain or retain copies of these business e-mails.
Finally, Michel allegedly settled a customer's complaint away from Financial West Group without providing notice to or receiving authorization from the firm. The investigation states that after a firm customer became unhappy with the commissions being charged, Michel reportedly paid the customer $1,000 by check without the firm's knowledge or consent, which is another industry violation, and ultimately resulted in Financial West Group's decision to terminate Michel in February of 2016.
According to his BrokerCheck report, Michel (CRD #2689456) presently faces a customer dispute alleging churning of accounts, unsuitable recommendations, unauthorized trading of penny stocks, and disregard for investment objectives/risk tolerances, while the firm stands accused of failing to supervise Michel. The dispute alleges damages of $55,000.
Michel's BrokerCheck report indicates he previously was associated with Financial West from 2011-12 and Securities America (Marina Del Rey) from 2012-14, before ultimately returning to Financial West from 2014 through his 2016 termination. The record indicates Michel was associated with Santa Monica's Torrey Pines Securities in 2011 and several other Southern California firms prior to that, during which Michel racked up a handful of customer disputes similarly alleging unauthorized and excessive trading.
If you have invested with Victor Michel or with any broker or financial adviser whose use of a personal, non-firm e-mail address, or whose failure to maintain copies of e-mail or other written correspondence, including attempts to resolve or settle disputes and complaints away from the firm, has proven harmful to your investments or interests, please call The Law Offices of Jonathan W. Evans & Associates at (800) 699-1881 for an investigation and consultation.