FINRA's Department of Enforcement filed a Complaint against Respondent Paramveer Singh, formerly a registered representative. The Complaint consists of four causes of action. The first two causes of action allege that on May 30, 2019, Singh converted and misused $20,768 belonging to his then-employer, member firm BofA Securities, Inc. ("BofA"). In the early morning hours of that day, Singh allegedly charged personal expenses at "P3," an adult entertainment venue in New York, to his BofA corporate credit card, knowing the firm had the financial responsibility to pay those charges. Singh's alleged use of the corporate credit card in this way was not authorized or consistent with firm policy. BofA paid the credit card company for the charges. According to the Complaint, Singh's alleged conduct violated FINRA Rule 2010.The third and fourth causes of action allege that Singh provided false information to FINRA staff in a written response to a FINRA Rule 8210 request and in on-the-record ("OTR") testimony taken under FINRA Rule 8210. Singh allegedly told FINRA staff that he did not make or authorize the charges at P3 on his corporate credit card. He denied making a telephone call from P3 to a credit card call center-during which, on a recorded line, the caller identified himself as Singh, confirmed Singh's work email address and the corporate credit card's credit limit, and tried to get another charge approved. According to the Complaint, Singh's alleged statements to FINRA violated FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010.
While associated with BofA, Singh had a BofA corporate credit card for which the firm had financial responsibility. The credit limit on this corporate credit card was $20,000. BofA's corporate policies provided that "Corporate Cards must not be used for personal expenditures and must be expensed and paid in full each month." BofA employees could not use corporate credit cards for personal expenses at adult entertainment venues. Singh certified he understood the corporate policies and agreed to adhere to them.
Thus, from August 3, 2018 to May 10, 2019, the total amount charged on Singh's personal credit cards at P3 and P3 Grill came to $38,665.94. In addition, on January 10, 2019, Singh spent $2,457.30 at an adult entertainment venue in Las Vegas, Nevada. 37Enforcement contends that in May 2019 (i.e., the time of the $20,768 in corporate credit card charges), Singh's accessible funds and personal sources of credit were depleted. . . .
[C]ertain charges were made to Singh's BofA corporate credit card at P3 on Wednesday and Thursday, May 29- 30, 2019:
These charges totaled $21,796. The charges were adjusted and reflected on Singh's corporate credit card statement in the amount of $20,768.54 The record does not disclose why the charges were adjusted.
SIDE BAR: As to the roughly $21,000 in contested charges, they appear to have been generated on:
Unfortunately, the limits of my mathematical ability is such that I can't figure out how much of the roughtly $35 a minute or the $145 a minute charges were for steak and drinks and how much for . . . well, use your imagination.
- May 29, 2019, in the amount of $4,992 from 9:01 p.m. to 11:25 p.m (that's about $34.67 a minute over 144 minutes); and
- May 30, 2019, in the amount of $16,804 from 12:31 a.m. to 2:27 a.m. (that's about $144.86 per minute over 116 minutes).
Enforcement issued a FINRA Rule 8210 request to BofA seeking production of any signed receipts associated with the charges made at P3 on May 29-30, 2019. BofA did not have possession of any signed receipts and thus could not produce any receipts to Enforcement. No receipts were offered into evidence in the hearing.On Thursday, May 30, 2019, two charges were made at P3 on Singh's Chase Sapphire personal credit card, in the amounts of $3,207 and $5,226. It is not known what times these charges were effected. The charges were credited back to Singh's account. Later, the charge in the amount of $5,226 was reversed permanently; the $3,207 charge was reinstated. Adding the $3,207 charge from Singh's Chase Sapphire personal credit card to the charges on Singh's BofA corporate credit card account statement, the total amount charged to Singh's credit cards on May 29-30, 2019 was $23,975. Singh had never spent that much money at P3 at one time.
At 2:35 a.m. on Thursday, May 30, 2019, BofA declined an attempted P3 charge in the amount of $2,613 to Singh's BofA corporate credit card. At 2:42 a.m., BofA Global Commercial Card ("BofA Global") received a telephone call from a male caller ("Caller") who tried to get this charge approved. BofA recorded this call. The Hearing Panel listened to the audio recording, which was entered into evidence as a hearing exhibit. In the call, the Caller identified himself as Singh and spelled out Singh's name as "Paramveer Singh, p as in peter a-ra-m-v-double e-r-s-i-n-g-h." The Caller correctly stated there was a $20,000 credit limit on Singh's corporate credit card and verified Singh's work email address. As reflected below, the Caller speculated that "he" or "they" "might have tried multiple times" to get earlier transactions approved . . .
[N]either party presented the testimony of a voice identification expert.There are a couple of additional facts about the May 29-30, 2019 telephone call that are notable. First, the "he" or "they" who tried to get the corporate credit card charges through "multiple times" were not identified. Second, the audio recording -- which was supposed to have been made from an adult entertainment venue and nightclub -- does not have any background noise.
Singh's personal and work telephone bills for May 30, 2019 do not reflect a call from Singh to BofA Global. Instead, the call was traced to telephone number (xxx) xxx-5413, which related to "HC", a real estate agent working at "KR Realty" in New York. On June 18, 2020, FINRA staff called HC at (xxx) xxx-5413. FINRA staff's notes of the call reflect that HC did not know Singh and was confused by the staff's questions about P3:[FINRA staff person] "JA" asked HC if she knew Paramveer Singh. HC asked "who" and was asked again. JA asked HC if she had this phone number for at least a year and HC confirmed that she had this number for at least a year.JA stated to HC that someone identifying himself as Paramveer Singh made a call from this phone number last year at a place of business called P3. JA asked HC if she had been to P3.At this point, HC stated that she was really confused and asked if JA would send her an email because she was in the middle of something.There is no evidence that FINRA sent HC an email before or after this phone call. In the hearing, FINRA Principal Investigator "MP" testified he was unaware of any written communication between Enforcement and HC. MP testified there was no follow-up with HC because JA, the FINRA staff person, "had already had a conversation with her where it's my understanding that HC was not very enthusiastic about speaking to us." According to MP, "we did attempt to look HC up to like run background checks to see if we could notice anything that would indicate a connection, but we didn't note anything in that regard." In sum, there were several unanswered questions about the May 30, 2019 telephone call. Those questions were still unanswered at the end of the hearing.
On March 31, 2020, FINRA staff sent Singh a request under FINRA Rule 8210 to provide OTR testimony. Singh appeared and testified on April 17, 2020.116 He testified, "I am 100 percent certain that I did not make the charges that I disputed on May 29th . . . I did not authorize those charges and I have no idea who actually used it on that May 29th/May 30th." After listening to the audio recording of the May 30, 2019 telephone call from P3 to BofA Global, Singh denied it was him on the call stating, "I don't think that's me, pretty confident, pretty sure."
After considering the hearing testimony and exhibits, the Hearing Panel concludes that Enforcement did not meet its burden of proof that Singh converted or misused funds from BofA, in violation of FINRA Rule 2010. . . .
Nearly all of Enforcement's case depends on a positive identification of Singh's voice on the May 30, 2019 telephone call to BofA Global. Having listened to the audio recording of that call, and having compared that call to the June 1, 2019 call from Singh to the BofA Fraud Department, the Hearing Panel cannot make the positive identification that Enforcement seeks and needs for its case. To do so would be to engage in improper speculation. We cannot recognize Singh's voice on the May 30, 2019 call. As a result, Enforcement did not prove the Caller was Singh. Neither party presented the testimony of a voice identification expert to assist the Hearing Panel.Another lacuna in evidence (for which Enforcement is not responsible) is that BofA does not have possession of any signed receipts associated with the charges made at P3 on May 29-30, 2019.The lack of signed receipts supports the inference that the charges were not legitimate commercial transactions. This absence makes it even harder for the Hearing Panel to identify Singh as the person who effected the charges.Without a positive voice identification on the May 30, 2019 call, and without signed receipts, Enforcement's case hinges on circumstantial evidence. But there is substantial circumstantial evidence that cuts against Enforcement's case. The May 30, 2019 call traces, not to any telephone number associated with Singh, but to the telephone number of HC, a real estate agent with no known connection to Singh or P3. The Hearing Panel could only speculate as to how Singh might have made the call from HC's phone.
Enforcement contends Singh had to turn to his corporate credit card in his May 30, 2019 visit to P3 because his accessible funds and personal sources of credit were depleted. This is analogous to a motive-and-opportunity argument: Singh had the motive to purchase goods and services from P3, and the available credit on his corporate credit card provided the opportunity. But the fact that a respondent had the motive and opportunity to commit a FINRA Rule violation, without more, does not prove that the respondent did commit the violation. Motive and opportunity do not make up for the lack of a positive voice identification on the May 30, 2019 audio recording, the lack of signed corporate credit card receipts, and the failure of the evidence to trace the call to BofA Global to a telephone number associated with Singh.