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Ex-Merrill Advisor Who Hurled Drink, Racist Insults Suspended by CFP Board

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What You Need to Know

  • CFP Board imposed an interim suspension of the CFP certification against an advisor who was recently fired by Merrill.
  • The ex-Merrill advisor was arrested and charged over an incident at a Robeks smoothie shop in which he was caught on video using racist insults.
  • The suspension bars him from using the CFP Board certification, at least until a complete investigation and possible further disciplinary proceedings occur.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has suspended an advisor who was captured on video throwing a drink and swearing at employees at a Robeks smoothie shop in Connecticut.

The advisor, James Iannazzo, was fired by Merrill Lynch after the incident, for which he was arrested by the Fairfield Police Department and charged with intimidation based on bigotry or bias, breach of peace and criminal trespass.

The video, which spread widely on social media and in the news, showed Iannazzo throwing a drink and calling an employee an “immigrant loser.” He said the store had sold him a smoothie that caused his son to have a severe allergic reaction.

CFP Board “imposed an interim suspension of the CFP certification against” James Iannazzo, which became effective on Monday, it said.

CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission issued Iannazzo the interim suspension of his right to use the CFP certification marks after CFP Board staff “became aware of an incident in which Mr. Iannazzo verbally and physically abused certain employees of a smoothie shop, one of whom was reportedly a minor, near his home,” on Jan. 22, CFP Board said in a news release Tuesday.

The suspension took effect Monday, the board said.

Based on the facts in the case, on Jan. 25, CFP Board Counsel filed a motion for interim suspension order requesting that the Commission issue an interim suspension order against Iannazzo, it said.

After reviewing the case, a Commission hearing panel determined that CFP Board Counsel “demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Iannazzo’s conduct significantly impinges upon the reputation of the profession and the CFP certification marks,” according to CFP Board.

As a result, Iannazzo’s right to use the CFP certification marks is “suspended pending CFP Board’s completed investigation and possible further disciplinary proceedings, effective immediately,” it said.

Frank Riccio II, Iannazzo’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the suspension.

On Twitter after the smoothie shop incident, Riccio posted a statement saying: “Mr. Iannazzo wholeheartedly regrets the incident that took place at the Fairfield Robeks on January 22, 2022. Mr. Iannazzo placed an order at the Robeks and stressed to the staff that the product must not contain peanuts. His receipt acknowledged that the order should not contain peanut butter. His son has a life-threatening peanut butter allergy.”

Riccio added: “Upon drinking the Robeks smoothie, his son had a severe allergic reaction which required transport via ambulance to the hospital. When faced with a dire situation for his son, Mr. Iannazzo’s parental instinct kicked in and he acted out of anger and fear. He is not a racist individual and deeply regrets his statements and actions during a moment of extreme emotional stress.”

Riccio told ThinkAdvisor that Iannazzo’s son was “home and thankfully on the road to recovery.”

(Pictured: James Iannazzo; Image: Fairfield Police Department)