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Merrill Fires 2 Reps Over Do Not Call List Violations

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Merrill Lynch recently terminated two broker-dealer representatives who violated the firm’s Do Not Call List policy, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website.

Disclosures on the reps’ reports at BrokerCheck say they were discharged due to “Conduct inconsistent with Firm standards related to the Firm’s Do Not Call list.”

Nicholas John Ferguson was terminated Dec. 15 and was with Merrill in New York since September 2017, which marked the start of his career in the industry, according to BrokerCheck. After leaving Merrill, he went to work for LPL Financial, his report shows.

Ethan Kunin was terminated by Merrill on Dec. 18 and was with the firm in Austin, Texas since September 2018, according to BrokerCheck. He previously worked at AXA Advisors since March 2018.

Ferguson and Kunin each remained registered with Merrill until January, according to BrokerCheck. Neither of them immediately responded to requests for comment.

Merrill declined to comment on whether other reps at the firm were terminated recently for the same reason.

The terminations of Ferguson and Kunin come as Merrill attempts to shift away from cold calling as a method for its advisor trainees to find new clients.

In 2019, Merrill terminated veteran brokers Todd Bendell and Jonathan Elliott, saying they engaged in “solicitation of prospects inconsistent with Firm standards” and then didn’t fully cooperate with reviews by the company, according to BrokerCheck.

Last year, Merrill put a short-term halt to cold calling by advisor trainees in response to outreach-related violations, according to Business Insider, which obtained a copy of an internal memo written by Jennifer MacPhee, who later retired from her role as head of Merrill’s training program for more than 3,000 financial advisors. Both MacPhee and Merrill said her departure was unrelated to the violations.

In September, Merrill said it intended to resume such outbound calling activity in the “not too distant future as the new team and its approach settle in.”

However, the company more recently indicated it was looking to be less reliant on the use of cold calling.

For Merrill reps, the clear message from the firings of Ferguson and Kunin seems to be that if they insist on cold calling potential new clients, they better make sure those people are not on the Do Not Call registry that is maintained by the Federal Trade Commission.

The terminations of Ferguson and Kunin were reported first by the Financial Times.