Massachusetts regulators fined Securities America $125,000 Wednesday over its failure to supervise the use of a commercial directed at elderly investors.
According to Commonwealth Secretary William F. Galvin, the state’s top securities regulator, one of the firm’s affiliated advisors ran “a deceptive radio advertising campaign which used the dangers of Alzheimer’s disease to gain access to seniors’ brokerage business.”
The complaint, first filed by Galvin’s offices in July 2015, also alleges that Securities America “approved the content of each of the radio advertisements without substantive review or follow-up of any kind.” In a separate complaint, the regulator named the advisor as Barry Graham Armstrong.
Securities America has about 2,200 affiliated advisors and over $70 billion in client assets. It is owned by Ladenburg Thalmann.
“Securities America’s failure to adequately supervise the content of the Alzheimer’s ads created a foreseeable risk that seniors and those with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s might be misled into believing that a solicitation-for-business advertisement was some type of public service announcement,” explained Galvin in a statement.
“While Securities America defended its action by saying that no investors complained, it’s the firm’s obligation to foresee and have reasonable measures in place to prevent the harm, not to react after the harm has occurred,” he added.
The Massachusetts consent order censured Securities America and required it to “permanently cease and desist conduct in violation of the law.” The broker-dealer also must form an internal team to investigate its advertising policies and procedures and improve the effectiveness of its advertising review process.
Regarding the state’s action, the broker-dealer said in a statement: “Consistent with our primary focus on the well-being of clients, we fully cooperated with the regulatory authorities in addressing this matter and putting it behind us.”
According to his FINRA records, the advisor mentioned in a related order has been in the business for 32 years; Armstrong has been with Securities America for the past 10 years and has seven disclosures.