FINRA barred former Cetera Advisors broker George Craig Merhoff after he refused to cooperate with Enforcement's investigation into allegations he made undisclosed payments to customers. In 2017, Oregon regulators issued a cease and desist order alongside a $70,000 civil penalty for Merhoff's "unfair practice" in negligently failing to ensure his clients understood certain investment strategies that Merhoff employed on their behalf.
In AWC #2018057331001, FINRA indicated that Merhoff (CRD #2918171) failed to provide staff with documents related to his issuance of consolidated account reports to customers, which FINRA had sought to review.
FINRA's disciplinary action in barring Merhoff is the ex-Cetera stockbroker's 35th disclosure, the majority of which are customer disputes filed since 2016.
Merhoff's alleged damages have already returned customers approximately $3.8 million in settlement amounts, with a handful of disputes still pending and additional complaints still being filed. For instance, after FINRA barred Merhoff on June 14, 2019 (disclosure number 35), three additional customer disputes (disclosures numbers 36, 37, and 38) were filed against Merhoff on June 17 alleging negligence, fraud, material omissions of fact, and breach of contract and fiduciary duty.
These disputes, many of which have cumulatively settled for several millions of dollars, and some of which remain pending, alleged the aforementioned fraud and related charges, as well as allegations of unsuitable investment recommendations and unsuitable investment by lack of diversity (sometimes called overconcentration).
Cetera Advisors discharged Merhoff in April 2019 for violating firm policies and procedures by making undisclosed payments to a firm customer. Additional business activities listed in Merhoff's BrokerCheck report include Sterling Asset Management, President of Reames Golf & Country Club, and Assistant Coach for Klamath Union High School's varsity football team.
According to Merhoff's BrokerCheck report, he was charged with theft and burglary in 1994, resulting in a conviction and criminal penalties. In 2018, Merhoff endured a tax lien disclosure after failing to fully pay his 2016 personal state income taxes. Merhoff's attorney even acknowledged that "The main concern for Mr. Merhoff was that there were financial considerations associated with his decision to work with FINRA."
If you have invested with ex-Cetera Advisors representative George Craig Merhoff or with any financial adviser or broker whose unfair practices in violation of firm policy through negligence, omission of material facts, misrepresentation, or unsuitable recommendations/concentration has proven harmful to your interests when a potentially financially-compromised broker's ill-fated investment strategy has produced losses or unwanted charges and fees, please call our experienced FINRA arbitration attorneys at The Law Offices of Jonathan W. Evans & Associates at (800) 699-1881 for an investigation and consultation.