Blog by Bill Singer Esq WEEK IN REVIEW

December 5, 2020

( Blog)
As far as these things go, this one started out in the usual fashion with a disgruntled public customer suing for losses sustained from his purchase of annuities. Frankly, annuities are something of a lightning rod when it comes to consumer lawsuits, so, you know, nothing all that out of the ordinary here. The bottom line is some $250,000 in compensatory damages, which Respondents didn't seem in that much of a rush to pony up. And thus the FINRA arbitration moves to a hearing -- or so you would think, except, gee, things just go off the road, into a ditch, and up in flames for the Claimant.
An unregistered, associated person makes a couple of phone calls to his firm's affiliated insurance company. During the calls, the associated person pretends to be two individuals attempting to complete their whole life insurance applications. Why is the associated person impersonating the applicants? Good question. Actually a great question. The answer is likely found in a combination of stupidity and over-the-top customer service. For FINRA, the solution is a fine and suspension. Sometimes, all that you can do is say a prayer for the pretender, who started out so young and strong, only to surrender.
Wall Street's customers have every right to expect -- to demand -- that their personal information is not freely bartered to the highest bidder. Expectations and demands aside, the sale of personal info has become the stock and trade of far too many fintech service providers, but that's a whole other article for another day. One man's Fintech is another's Fintheft. Like I said, be that as it may, FINRA has maintained a vigilant posture when it comes to the misuse of customers' so-called nonpublic personal information, which is often referred to as "NPI" (gotta love acronyms, no?). In today's blog, we consider the missteps of two respondents when it came to their handling of NPI. And then we ponder the imponderable of how long is too long.
If a customer complaint is not filed by a customer, is it a customer complaint? If a brokerage firm discloses in regulatory filings that a stockbroker was the subject of a customer complaint but the firm itself disputes that the complainant was a customer, does that give the firm a free pass to file the complaint anyway? And as we all contemplate Wall Street's regulatory and compliance navel and seek peace with the universe, we should remember that the issues under scrutiny are of serious concern for the stockbroker, whose otherwise unblemished reputation has been tarnished. Yes, he's a victim. No, there is no simple, direct process by which he can clear his name and obtain recompense for his ordeal.