The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has hit a California broker-dealer with a $400,000 fine and banned a number of its former brokers over sales of penny stocks.
As a result of the enforcement actions, Irvine, Calif.-based Finance 500 Inc. has been sold to a group of advisors at the company and put under new management.
In the latest development, Finra on Monday suspended for two years a former branch manager at the firm, Robert Richards. Finra had charged Richards with failure to supervise a Florida branch that sold low-priced stocks. That office, since closed, was at the heart of the brokerage firm’s alleged problems.
Richards, who has been with seven different firms since 1995, is no longer in the industry.
The Finra action follows a separate settlement late last month in which Finance 500 agreed to pay a $400,000 fine for supervisory violations. The firm’s former chief executive, Robert L. “Lance” Hicks, was suspended for nine months from acting as a principal and fined $25,000.
As of the end of the year, Hicks is no longer associated with the firm, said Bryan Bennett, the new chief executive and president.
Bennett is one of the new owners, along with Frederick Murrieta and Jaemin Lee Ragsdale, all veterans of the firm’s fixed-income business.
None of them had anything to do with the Florida branch, Bennett said, which was closed in 2014.
“The former owners are gone. We’re under completely new management, and we have no intention of ever going back to that [low-priced stock business] again,” he said.
Finra signed off on the management changes last month, Bennett added.