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FINRA Bars Ex-Ameriprise Rep Who Was Fired Over Ethics Violations

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority barred an ex-Ameriprise rep from associating with any FINRA member in any capacity after he stopped cooperating with the regulator’s investigation into his termination from the firm over alleged ethics and other violations, according to FINRA.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Bryant Edwin Caveness signed a letter of acceptance, waiver and consent July 15 in which he agreed to FINRA’s sanction. FINRA accepted the letter Wednesday.

After three years at Morgan Stanley, Caveness joined Ameriprise Advisor Services in 2003 and then became registered with Ameriprise Financial Services in 2009, where he remained until he was terminated by the firm June 26, 2020, according to FINRA’s BrokerCheck website.

Asked for comment Thursday on the claims made against its former rep, Ameriprise just referred ThinkAdvisor to the language in his Form U5 termination letter that said: “The registered representative was terminated for company policy violations related to personal trade, ethics, and solicitation of exchange traded products.” He is no longer registered as a broker or RIA, according to BrokerCheck.

FINRA initiated an investigation into Caveness’ “potential receipt of checks from senior customers,” according to the FINRA AWC letter. FINRA did not elaborate. However, it is likely that the checks in question were from certain older clients of his with Ameriprise that raised red flags, possibly because they were not related to normal payments he would have received from those customers through his relationship with the firm.

“Although Caveness initially cooperated with FINRA’s investigation, he ceased doing so in July 2020,” according to the FINRA AWC letter. “Specifically, on June 25, 2020, FINRA staff sent a request to Caveness for the production of information and documents pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210,” the regulator said.

However, “as stated in his counsel’s e-mail to FINRA staff on July 9, 2020, and by this agreement, Caveness acknowledges that he received FINRA’s request and will not produce the information or documents requested at any time,” according to the AWC letter.

By refusing to produce the information or documents as requested, Caveness violated FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010 (governing standards of commercial honor and principles of trade), according to the regulator.

Asked for comment, Alan M. Wolper, an attorney at law firm Ulmer & Berne in Chicago who represented Caveness in the dispute with FINRA, told ThinkAdvisor: “The fact is my client had already determined that he no longer wanted or needed to be associated with a FINRA member firm, so he had no incentive to continue to cooperate with FINRA’s examination, even though he knew that would result in the sanction that was imposed.  With that said, the subject of the FINRA examination concerned whether or not Bryant had participated in any securities transactions with clients – some of whom were seniors – away from Ameriprise.  When questioned by FINRA about this under oath, Bryant denied doing that, and he stands by that testimony.”