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John William Bernard Sanctioned for Unauthorized Exercise of Discretion at LPL Financial

FINRA fined and suspended former LPL Financial and Independent Financial Group broker John William "Bill" Bernard for improperly exercising discretion while associated with LPL Financial of Shell Beach, California.

AWC #2015044696201

The report states Bernard (CRD #2655101) employed discretion without written authorization in at least seven customers' accounts; Bernard purportedly failed to obtain prior written authorization from the customers to exercise discretion, and LPL had not accepted the accounts as discretionary.

Bernard's BrokerCheck report indicates that LPL Financial discharged him in 2015 for violating firm policy pertaining to time and price discretion, and that Bernard subsequently settled two customer disputes alleging unsuitability, unauthorized trading, and churning in real estate securities and equity listed products, including stock traded on the over-the-counter (OTC) markets. One of these settled disputes additionally alleged that LPL Financial failed to supervise Bernard.

Registration history shows that about one month before his termination from LPL in early 2015, Bernard joined Independent Financial Group (IFG) of San Luis Obispo, CA, where he remained registered through December 31, 2017.

Bernard's file also lists a 2012 compromise with creditor Chase for $235,000; this combined with a bankruptcy disclosure from the US Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California suggest potential financial woes, which can be a motivator for unethical or downright fraudulent misconduct, such as churning or unsuitable recommendations to invest in high-commission or high-fee products, which the troubled broker's firm could be held responsible for.

The Massachusetts Securities Division, for instance, fined Merrill Lynch $500,000 for failing to stop broker misconduct due to the firm's failure to supervise financial adviser Jane E O'Brien, even after becoming aware that she may have been in personal financial trouble and could be grooming unsuspecting firm clients for a quick payday.

In O'Brien's case, this resulted in not only a FINRA bar for unauthorized loans, but a 33-month prison sentence and $240,000 restitution order for private placement fraud of an elderly customer.

Unfortunately, the federal court's $240,000 restitution order represented only a fraction of the approximately-$1.7 million that O'Brien fraudulently appropriated from her elderly client.

If you have invested with former LPL Financial and Independent Financial Group broker John William Bill Bernard or with any broker or financial adviser who has engaged in excessive or unauthorized trading, churning, or who has made unsuitable recommendations that have proven harmful to your investments or interests through payment of unnecessary fees and commissions, please call The Law Offices of Jonathan W. Evans & Associates at (800) 699-1881 for an investigation and consultation.

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