Ever the wordsmith and societal critic, author Charles Dickens is credited with saying that "charity begins at home and justice begins next door." Frankly, an intriguing turn of a phrase and one that gives us much to ponder. In a recent Wall Street regulatory settlement, we have the case of a somewhat misguided and errant youth, who seems to have taken Dickens' admonition as a challenge.
Case In Point
For the purpose of proposing a settlement of rule violations alleged by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"), without admitting or denying the findings, prior to a regulatory hearing, and without an adjudication of any issue, Adam Robert Bollinger submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In the Matter of Adam Robert Bollinger Respondent (AWC 2015044164801, May 15, 2015).
From August 8, 2012 through December 23, 2014, Respondent Bollinger was registered with Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P.
Muscular Dystrophy Association Golf Tournament
In February 2014, seeking a sponsor for a hole at a purported Muscular Dystrophy Association charity golf tournament, Bollinger allegedly solicited "TG," whose father was an Edward Jones customer. At Bollinger's request, TG made a $600 check payable to Bollinger.
Again in February 2014, Bollinger solicited TG to make two additional donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association; and TG made $200 and $75 checks payable to Bollinger, as per the stockbroker's request.
The AWC concedes that sometime later in 2014, Bollinger refunded $600 to TG, claiming that the Muscular Dystrophy Association golf tournament never took place.
In April 2014, Bollinger allegedly told Edward Jones customer SD that she had to pay $40 to him as an account service fee; and, accordingly, the customer made a check payable in the requested amount to Bollinger. Apparently, there was no such fee payment due.
Charity Golf Tournament
In October 2014, Bollinger visited SD's home (which she shared with CM, another Edward Jones' customer). During the visit, Bollinger solicited a charitable contribution for a golf tournament purportedly hosted by Edward Jones. SD wrote a check for $200 drawn on her and CM's joint checking account, and, at Bollinger's request, the check was made payable to him.
Sometime in November 2014, Bollinger re-visted the SD and CM household and solicited a second donation for the same charitable event - and another $200 check was made payable to Bollinger.
In December 2014, Bollinger visited SD and falsely told her that $2,000 had erroneously been transferred from her Edward Jones IRA to her checking account. Bollinger allegedly persuaded SD to give him a $2,000 check made payable to him as a re-deposit into her IRA.
A week later, Bollinger again visited SD and now claimed that an additional $9,200 had erroneously been transferred from her IRA to her checking account;and, yet again, he secured a $9,200 check payable to him under the guise of a purported deposit into the IRA account.
Mary Lou Fulton Teaching Foundation
In August 2014, Bollinger visited the home of DB, an elderly Edward Jones customer, and solicited a contribution for the Mary Lou Fulton Teaching Foundation, a charity supposedly affiliated with Arizona State University and that sponsored young students to attend college. The AWC asserts that the foundation was fictitious.
Over the course of several weeks, DB gave Bollinger checks totaling $4,500 in supposed donations for the foundation. The customer left the Payee line of the first such check blank and asked Bollinger to fill that space in with the appropriate charity. After filling in the first check's Payee line with his name, Bollinger thereafter asked DB to make out the remaining checks to him. In addition to the checks for the foundation, Bollinger solicited and obtained a $50 cash donation for the alleged purchase of clothing for the student that DB thought she would be sponsoring.
By December 2014, the AWC asserts that DB grew suspicious and asked for the return of her donations. Although Bollinger did not repay the $50 cash donation, the AWC asserts that on December 18, 2014, he gave DB a $4,500 certified check.
United Way Golf Tournament
In August 2014, Bollinger solicited Edward Jones customer JM to become a sponsor of an alleged United Way golf tournament, and on August 27, 2014, the customer gave Bollinger a $300 check made payable to Bollinger.
Phoenix Children's Hospital
In September 2014, Bollinger solicited Edward Jones customer RR to make a donation to the Phoenix Children's Hospital, and the customer made a $100 check payable to Bollinger. Oddly, around October 10, 2014, Bollinger charged a $100 donation to the hospital on his own credit card and purportedly made the donation in RR's name.
In the fall of 2014, Bollinger solicited elderly Edward Jones customer AP for a donation to an alleged children's cancer organization, and AP made a $60 check payable to Bollinger as a donation.
According to online FINRA BrokerCheck records as of May 28, 2015, Edward Jones "Discharged" Bollinger on December 23, 2014, based upon allegations that:
THE FIRM RECEIVED INFORMATION FROM A THIRD PARTY WHO WAS NOT A FIRM CLIENT THAT MR. BOLLINGER WAS CASHING CHECKS MADE PAYABLE TO MR. BOLLINGER BY FIRM CLIENTS
FINRA deemed that Bollinger had converted $17,525 from the seven individuals noted above in violation of FINRA Rule 2150 and 2010. In accordance with the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon Bollinger a Bar from association with any FINRA member firm in any capacity.
Bill Singer's Comment
Bollinger's conduct seems to border on acts of larceny or other misdemeanors and/or felonies involving the wrongful taking and conversion of another's property. It would seem to me a far more effective and meaningful matter for criminal prosecution than self-regulation. Nonetheless, I applaud FINRA for getting this [insert epithet of your choice] out of the industry.
According to Bollinger's online Investment Adviser Representative Public Disclosure Report as of May 20, 2015, he appears to have graduated High School in 2006 and Arizona State University in 2012. How a young man could go so wrong in such a short amount of time is sad. Then again, Dickens created both Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger -- young Bollinger seems to have chosen the wrong role model.