FINRA Bars Analyst For Biting Off More Than She Could Chew

November 13, 2018

In its press release,"Odeon Capital Group LLC Strengthens Equity Desk Research," the broker-dealer announced on December 7, 2016, its hire of Jahanara Nissar as an Equity Desk Analyst in Technology, Media and Telecommunications. In lauding Nissar's background and accomplishments, the press release stated in part that:

Prior to joining Odeon Capital in 2016, Ms. Nissar was with Alliance Bernstein in Sales and Trading focused on the Tech, Media, Telecom space as a Product Specialist where she generated trading ideas and collaborated in running the desk's Media and Internet trading pad which was recognized as the top grossing commission pad on Bernstein's trading desk in 2014. Prior to Alliance Bernstein, Ms. Nissar was at RBC Capital markets in Equity Research covering the Communications Technology space and at Citigroup covering the Homebuilders. Ms. Nissar received a MBA from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and is also a graduate of Mount Union College.

Clearly, Odeon was happy to have Nissar onboard. She had all the tools to make it on Wall Street and seemed headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, life is full of surprises. Some of which are quite nasty. 

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, Jahanara Nissar, submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In the Matter of Jahanara Nissar, Respondent (AWC 2017055921701, November 8, 2018).

The AWC asserts that  Nissar was first registered  in 2005; and by November 2016, she was associated as a General Securities Representative and Research Analyst with FINRA member firm Odeon Capital Group LLC.  The AWC asserts that "Nissar has no relevant disciplinary history in the securities industry."

Meal Ticket

The AWC alleges from the relevant period of January 2017 to August 2017, Nissar submitted about 50 expense reports for reimbursement in which she deliberately mischaracterized various personal expenses as business-related expenses -- the bulk of the cited reimbursements were for meals that were fraudulently presented as involving customers or potential customers. 

FINRA Sanctions

FINRA found Nissar's conduct to constitute a violation of FINRA Rule 2010, and in accordance with the terms of the AWC, the self-regulatory-organization imposed upon Nissar a Bar from association with any FINRA member in all capacities.

Bill Singer's Comment 

Online FINRA BrokerCheck records as of November 13, 2018, disclose that Odeon Capital Group discharged Nissar on September 15, 2017, based upon allegations of:

Submission of false expense reimbursement reports and/or receipts

In commenting further on the above disclosure, under the heading "Firm Statement" is the following:

An investigation was initiated and is ongoing into possible fraudulent expense items submitted by and/or paid to Representative on expense reimbursement submissions. After initially trying to explain inconsistencies in her expense reports, Ms. Nissar walked out the office and did not return to the Firm. The investigation is ongoing.

Online FINRA BrokerCheck records as of November 13, 2018, disclose under the heading "Criminal -- Final Disposition" that Nissar was charged in the New York State Supreme Court on November 29, 2017, with:
  • one count of Felony Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, to which she pled Not Guilty and the charge was dismissed; 
  • 50 counts of Felony Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, to which she pled Not Guilty and the charges were dismissed; and
  • one count of Misdemeanor Forgery in the Third Degree, to which she pled Guilty on May 16, 2018, and for which she was sentenced to pay $5,000 in restitution, which was paid on May 22, 2018.
It is sad to see that a promising career came to such an abrupt end over relative nonsense. There is nothing funny here. It is the stuff of tragedy. That being said, let me issue a warning. The holiday season is upon us. It is year-end. Many on Wall Street have what is referred to as use-it-or-lose-it Travel and Entertainment programs. Your firm agrees to reimburse legitimate T&E business expenses during the calendar year. As you begin to notice the months of "November" and "December" on your calendars, you take a look at the remaining balance in your T&E account. Some of you may call around to a few customers and see if you can take them out for a lavish meal. Maybe get some tickets for a concert or sporting event. Maybe rack up some bucks with Uber or Lyft. Unfortunately, folks are busy this time of year. You can't fill up the old dance card. What you can do is cheat the system. After all, you reason, if the expenses were bona fide, I would be entitled to run the T&E balance down to zero. Then you arrive at the specious logic that if you game the system it's really no-harm-no-foul. The problem is you're fooling yourself. There is harm. It is a foul. If you want to debate the point and tell me that I'm an idiot, have at it. Just do yourself a favor: Re-read today's featured FINRA settlement and pay some attention to the involvement of the District Attorney's office. 

You may think that Nissar's case is unusual. It is not. Consider this:

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, John J. Baldeck submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In the Matter of John J. Baldeck, Respondent (AWC 2016050321501, November 12, 2018).
In accordance with the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon Baldeck a Bar from association with any F1NRA member in any capacity. As set forth in the AWC's "Facts and Violative Conduct": 

Morgan Stanley permitted Baldeck to resign after it found that Baldeck "requested and received reimbursement from the Firm for expenses described as client meal expense[s], when the meals were actually personal in nature." Subsequently, FINRA staff sent a request dated August 9, 2018 to Baldeck to appear and provide on-the-record testimony pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210 on September 14, 2018. Baldeck and FINRA staff subsequently agreed to reschedule the testimony for October 23, 2018. Baldeck appeared for testimony pursuant to Rule 8210 on that date and provided a partial day of testimony. However, before the testimony was complete, Baldeck informed staff that he would not complete his on-the-record testimony that day or at any time. By refusing to complete his on-the-record testimony as requested pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210, Baldeck violates FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010. 

READ the Blog "Business Expenses" Archive

UPDATE: January 2019

Dear Mr. Singer, 

My firm represents Ms. Nissar concerning her departure from Odeon Capital Group, and her subsequent dealings with FINRA. 

I am a regular reader of your Broke and Broker blog, and my client and I came across your November 13, 2018 post in which you wrote about her case and others like it. I agree with your observation that FINRA Enforcement has sharpened its focus on expense reports, and that financial services professionals must be careful to avoid missteps that can result in negative career and regulatory consequences. 

So that your readers will have a fuller view of the context surrounding my client's case, I would kindly ask that you include in your post the fact that FINRA recently agreed to add to her CRD the following broker comment: "I reject my former employer's contention that [I] knowingly submitted for reimbursement fraudulent expense items. The expense report at issue was prepared while I was recovering from surgery in the wake of a serious medical event. To the extent any items were erroneously recorded on the report, such errors were the result of a good-faith mistake. In several instances, the firm's position concerning whether certain expenses were appropriately categorized as business expenses is contrary to the documentary record. Finally, during the internal review that preceded my termination, the firm denied without justification my request to access the records of my business communications. Those records would have definitively [refuted] all or nearly all of the firm's claims regarding my expense reports." 

Respectfully submitted, 

Kevin Galbraith
The Galbraith Law Firm