An independent broker-dealer has had its registration revoked and its assets frozen following findings its agents raked in more than $28.7 million through pervasive unauthorized, unsuitable and excessive trading.

The New Jersey Bureau of Securities announced yesterday it revoked the registration of First Standard Financial Co. LLC of Red Bank, N.J., and obtained a court-ordered freeze of the firm’s assets because of trading that “unjustly enriched the firm and its agents at the expense of its customers.” The action was part of the bureau’s ongoing investigation of the firm.

First Standard routinely hired agents with a history of customer complaints and regulatory problems, the bureau said in documents filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Essex County. “First Standard and these agents then defrauded the firm’s clients through unsuitable and frequently unauthorized in-and-out trading for the purpose of generating sales commissions at their clients’ expense,” the bureau said in a press release. “This included short-term trading in bonds and other securities for which active trading is unsuitable.”

The bureau also said it found that First Standard was complicit in the unlawful conduct and that its sales commissions were so high that customer accounts would have to generate extraordinary returns just to break even.

The court also granted the bureau’s request to temporarily restrain First Standard from destroying any documents, computer files, or other business records and to order First Standard to provide the bureau with a list of all its assets and liabilities.

First Standard, established in April 2013, could not be reached for comment. Calls went to a voicemail box that is full and cannot accept any more calls. On Finra’s BrokerCheck website, First Standard’s owner is listed as Carl Standard and Co. Holdings LLC, 75% of which is owned by Carmine Anthony Berardi. First Standard's B-D has licenses to operate in all 50 states and two U.S. territories.

According to BrokerCheck, First Standard paid a $10,000 fine after consenting to findings Nov. 21, 2017, that it failed to promptly provide or deliver documents after written requests from staff. That was the only regulatory disclosure listed.

First Standard also operates a registered investment advisory (RIA) firm. According to its ADV Form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the firm offers portfolio management and selects other advisors for clients. Berardi is listed as chief compliance officer of the RIA, which also has an office in Garden City, N.Y.