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Birmingham Broker Joseph Lawrence Suspended: Unauthorized Trades

Former Wells Fargo Clearing Services broker and investment adviser Joseph Lawrence (CRD# 5605961) has been sanctioned by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in connection to allegations of unauthorized trading. Previously a representative at the firm’s branch office in Birmingham, Alabama, Lawrence was issued a 3-month suspension and a fine of $5,000.

According to a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (No. 2018060812901) dated December 2019, Joseph Lawrence was associated with Wells Fargo Clearing Services as a General Securities Representative from 2009 until December 2018, when the firm filed notice of his termination after an investigation that found he executed trades in a customer’s account “without customer consent.” FINRA’s findings go on to state that he became the registered representative for the customer, a woman in her 80s, after her previous representative, his father, died in 2014. He “failed to ever speak or otherwise communicate” with the customer, according to FINRA, and as such did not communicate with her about “what positions he needed to liquidate in her account” so as to fund a $6,000 monthly cash distribution she took from it pursuant to a letter of authorization. 

The findings go on to state that between July 2014 and June 2017 he “entered 38 sell orders for a money market mutual fund in the account” without ever communicating with the customer, and that these sell orders totaled about $200,000. After the position in that fund was depleted, FINRA states, he began entering sell orders for “individual equities” in the account, effecting 20 sales in five different equities, for a total of $70,000, and for which he received commissions of about $388. Those 20 sales began on June 30, 2017, FINRA states, but three of them, totaling about $17,000, were effected after the customer’s death in April 2018, and one was effected “after the Firm had questioned Lawrence in June 2018 about the lack of documentation of customer authorization.” FINRA states that in all of the cases, Lawrence “never had authorization” from the customer to sell any securities in her account. As a result of the foregoing alleged conduct, he was issued a three-month suspension from associating with any FINRA member firm. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $5,000, and to disgorge the $388 in commissions he received. 

Joseph Lawrence is currently not registered as a broker. His previous registrations include Wells Fargo Clearing Services in Birmingham, Alabama. He has passed three securities industry qualifying examinations and his BrokerCheck report lists zero state securities licenses. (Information current as of May 13, 2020.)

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