March 16, 2019
Two veteran, female Wall Street stockbrokers worked at UBS before joining Merrill Lynch. Maybe they knew each other at UBS, maybe not. In any event, at Merrill Lynch, one of the stockbrokers came up with the idea of pooling their clients and working a common book of business. The intention of forming a team seems to have been to foster a working relationship in contemplation of the retirement of one of the stockbrokers. As far as intentions go, that seems like a good one. The thing about good intentions, however, is that they are the paving stones for the road to hell -- or, as this mess would prove, a highway to hell.
The point of blockchain technology is that you don't need to trust anyone's honesty because the blockchain self-authenticates all transactions, and independent mining nodes continually validate the blockchain as well as each other. Testing that whole trust thing, OneCoin controlled the ledger and the mining nodes, the sole coin exchange, and all information flows; and it automatically created new coins at a calculated rate of over 43 million a month. OneCoin's members knew all of that, and still fell for it. Why then did OneFraud last as long as it did? As veteran industry attorney Aegis Frumento notes, the criminal Complaint against the firm's CEO quotes his text messages saying "These ppl are idiots" and "as you told me, the network would not work with intelligent people ;)."
Presented for your consideration is a regulatory odyssey. This rambling, shambling tale sort of begins in 2008 with an unhappy customer complaining about his Ameriprise stockbroker. That takes us to a 2010 FINRA Arbitration by the unhappy customer against Ameriprise and the stockbroker. As a result of some shenanigans that may or may not have gone on in preparation for and during that arbitration, we wind up with a 2014 FINRA Office of Hearing Officers Decision, which suspends the stockbroker for three months and fines him $50,000. On appeal, in 2016, FINRA's National Adjudicatory Council increases the suspension to one year. Not taking his punishment without more of a fight, the stockbroker appeals to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which, in 2017, remands the regulatory case back to FINRA. Now, in 2019, FINRA's NAC re-visits the entire mess via the SEC's remand and, well, what can I say: here we go again.
After you file a Form TCR with the Securities and Exchange Commission, you may strike gold. You may strike fool's gold. Either way, before you're even going to come across a nugget of whatever, you're gonna have to wait and see whether the SEC posts a "Notice of Covered Action" ("NoCA") for your matter. If your tip ends up with a NoCA, you may (or may not) be deemed eligible for a Whistleblower Award. None of which means that you or any other whistleblower will pass muster when the SEC decides who is (and isn't) eligible for an Award. As we learn in a recent SEC Order, it is critical for whistleblowers to monitor posted NoCAs in order to ensure their place in line. There's a 90-day deadline. Think of it as listening for the starter's gun in order to begin the race. If you don't hear the gun go off and never leave the starting line, well, you know, you're dead in your tracks. If you do hear the gun and begin the race, just because you're running around the track doesn't mean you're going to emerge the winner.
What's 22 years of uninterrupted service worth these days to an employer on Wall Street? What's the value of such loyalty when that employee was a woman, who began in the biz in 1982? You want the over or under on $17,600?