Thanks to a tip from its Senior Helpline, FINRA fined and suspended former Wells Fargo Advisors broker Gary Len Wells of Tacoma, Washington for accepting bequests from the estate of an elderly customer, in contravention of firm policy.
FINRA AWC #2019064851901 states that a longtime elderly customer designated Gary Wells (CRD #1142058) as a beneficiary and fiduciary in her will, resulting in a complaint from the client's brother. In response, Wells Fargo instructed Wells to have himself removed from the beneficiary and fiduciary designations and further instructed Wells that if the customer would decline to remove him, he should simply decline the appointments.
Instead, according to FINRA, Wells stayed on as a beneficiary and went so far as to conceal that fact by making false statements on compliance questionnaires.
When the 92-year-old customer died, Wells received a bequest, which Wells Fargo intercepted and reversed the transfer, informing Wells that he would not be allowed to receive those assets.
Nonetheless, Wells purportedly went around the firm to receive a series of checks issued by the customer's estate for a total of over $620,000, and deposited these checks into a personal savings account at a bank not affiliated with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network.
After Wells Fargo discharged Wells in December 2019 for the prohibited bequests, he became associated with American Wealth Management (Tacoma, WA), where he remained until April 2021. On December 30, 2020, the State of Washington's Department of Financial Institutions, Securities Division launched an investigation into Wells, writing it had "reason to believe that Gary Len Wells violated the Securities Act of Washington."
FINRA-member firms generally have policies and procedures in place regarding beneficiary relationships between clients and brokers and, in the case of Gary Wells, Wells Fargo's policy outright prohibited this beneficiary relationship; nonetheless, the investigation reveals that Wells appeared to skirt the rules to obtain $620,000+ from the customer's estate, even after being explicitly told by Wells Fargo not to do so.
If you invested with a broker or financial adviser, or had a loved one invest with a registered representative who inappropriately worked their way into the client's will in a fiduciary capacity and as a beneficiary, and have suffered losses when this financial professional sought to obtain assets from your loved one's estate in contravention of firm or industry rules, please call an experienced FINRA arbitration attorney at The Law Offices of Jonathan W. Evans & Associates at (800) 699-1881 for an investigation and consultation.