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John Ernst: Foresters Equity Services Broker Suspended; Woodbridge Notes

A disciplinary action taken by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority against former San Diego, California broker John Ernst (CRD# 1958252) suspended him over allegations he participated in unapproved private securities transactions involving Woodbridge Group of Companies promissory notes. A former representative of Foresters Equity Services Services, Ernst was fined $5,000 and suspended from acting as a broker for nine months as a result of these findings.

According to a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (No. 2018057754401) dated April 2019, John Ernst participated in undisclosed, unapproved private securities transactions worth approximately $509,000 between October 2015 and 2017, violating FINRA Rules 2010 and 3280. FINRA’s findings state specifically that Ernst solicited investments in promissory notes involving the Woodbridge group of companies, “a purported real estate investment fund.” He allegedly sold Woodbridge notes totaling $509,000 to four investors, including three customers of his member firm, and received commissions of $35,252. FINRA’s findings note that Woodbridge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2017.

Per FINRA’s findings, John Ernst’s former member firm, Foresters Equity Services, had written supervisory procedures stating that representatives must seek and receive firm approval before they participated in private securities transactions, “including the offer of promissory notes.” However, according to FINRA, Ernst neither notified the firm that he was engaging in the transactions nor received its approval. He also allegedly reported on firm compliance questionnaires during the relevant period that he had not participated in private securities transactions and that he had not sold promissory notes. FINRA’s findings state that these actions constituted violations of FINRA rules. As a result of the foregoing alleged conduct, John Ernst was issued a nine-month suspension from association with any FINRA member firm in all capacities, and was ordered to pay a fine of $5,000.

An earlier disciplinary action by Wisconsin securities regulators stated that John Ernst sold Woodbridge promissory notes “without proper qualification and without informing his… firm.” He was consequently barred from future registration in the state for 36 months, and was ordered to pay disgorgement of $13,824.78.

John Ernst is not currently registered as a broker or investment advisor. His employment history includes Foresters Equity Services in San Diego, California, ING Financial Partners, MTL Equity Products, SunAmerica Securities, Guardian Investor Services Corporation, John Hancock Distributors, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, Pruco Securities Corporation, and the Prudential Insurance Company of America. He currently holds no state registrations and has passed three securities industry qualification examinations.

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