A Washington, D.C.-based financial advisor has been barred from the securities industry after her attempt to render the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s administrative law process unconstitutional fell short.
Dawn J. Bennett and her firm, Bennett Group Financial Services, were barred from the industry and ordered to pay more than $4 million in fees and penalties by the SEC in an administrative proceeding.
The SEC ordered Bennett to pay $556,102 in disgorgement and a civil penalty of $600,000, while the Bennett Group was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $2.9 million.
Bennett and her firm allegedly overstated their assets under management by at least $1.5 billion in Barron’s magazine, in “Financial Myth Busting,” a radio show hosted by Bennett on the Radio America Network, and to prospective clients to create the impression that Bennett and her firm were more successful than was actually the case, according to the SEC.
Bennett, who previously provided commentary to Financial Advisor and CNBC, also allegedly touted the firm’s investment returns on her radio show, claiming that their returns placed them in the top 1 percent of firms worldwide, without disclosing that the returns were those of a model portfolio and did not reflect actual customer returns.
The SEC also alleged that Bennett and the firm did not adopt or implement adequate policies and procedures related to the calculation and advertisement of AUM and investment returns.
Administrative Judge James Grimes ruled Bennett guilty by default because she did not participate in the SEC hearing on Jan. 27 afer arguing that the appointment process for the SEC’s administrative judges violates the appointments clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Bennett’s argument hinged on the use of the SEC’s hiring process to choose the administrative judges rather than an appointment by the agency’s commissioners, which the Constitution requires.
Earlier in January, Grimes denied a motion by Bennett to dismiss the administrative proceeding then issued an order allowing previous statements by Bennett to be admitted into evidence.
In his final ruling, Grimes wrote that “obstructive behavior” on the part of Bennett and the firm indicated their wrongdoing.