FINRA Fines And Suspends Merrill Rep For Altering Client Documents

April 12, 2017

We all know that person. The one who just doesn't seem to get it. No matter how gentle or persistent the warnings. No matter how loud the alarm. No matter how bright the flashing sign. For some reason, "no" doesn't quite register with them. As a recent FINRA regulatory settlement demonstrates, there are more than a few clueless folks working on Wall Street.

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, Adriane L. Cagle submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In the Matter of Adriane L. Cagle, Respondent (AWC 2016051146801, April 7, 2017).

The AWC asserts that Cagle was first registered in 2013 with FINRA member firm  Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. 

Altered State I

The AWC asserts that in May 2014, Merrill Lynch sent a disciplinary letter to Cagle in which she was cited for:

altering certain documents after they had already been signed by a customer.

Altered State II

In April 2016, the AWC asserts that 

Cagle added customer occupation information and signed as a witness to another customer's previously signed power-of-attorney document even though Cagle had not actually witnessed the customer sign.

Altered State III

Apparently not quite getting the message, in July 2016, Cagle allegtedly:

filled in dates and signed as a witness to another customer's previously-signed power-of-attorney document even though she had not actually witnessed the customer sign.

Altered Job Status

Online FINRA BrokerCheck files as of April 12, 2017, disclose that Merrill Lynch "Discharged" Cagle on August 5, 2016, based upon allegations of:

Conduct involving alteration of client documents.


FINRA deemed Cagle's conduct to have caused Merrill Lynch to  maintain inaccurate books and records in violation of FINRA Rules 4511 and, as such, to have constituted her violation of FINRA Rules 4511 and 2010.

In accordance with the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon Cagle a $5,000 fine and a two-month-suspension from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. 

Bill Singer's Comment

This is one of those rare Blogs where I take no issue with the actions of a former employer or FINRA. Merrill Lynch gave fair warning -- actually, warnings. The firm had every right to fire Cagle. FINRA's AWC sets out the facts with sufficient content and context so that we understand exactly what took place. Given that Cagle's conduct did not seem designed to defraud her clients but to have been the byproduct of misguided customer service or fatigue with the demands of recordkeeping, the fine and suspension are not excessive and, if anything, relatively generous.