Unsecured Bridge Promissory Note Fraud and Misrepresentation FINRA Arbitration and Litigation Attorney, Russell L. Forkey, Esq.
Brookstone Securities, Inc. (CRD® #13366, Lakeland, Florida), David William Locy (CRD #4682865, Registered Principal, Overland Park, Kansas), Mark Mather Mercier (CRD #1884246, Registered Principal, Lutz, Florida) and Antony Lee Turbeville (CRD #1721014, Registered Principal, Lakeland, Florida) submitted Offers of Settlement in which the firm was censured and fined $200,000; Locy was fined $10,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any principal capacity for three months, Mercier was fined $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any principal capacity for three months, and Turbeville was fined $10,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any principal capacity for three months. Mercier’s fine must be paid either immediately upon his reassociation with a FINRA member firm following his suspension, or prior to the filing of any application or request for relief from any statutory disqualification, whichever is earlier. Without admitting or denying the allegations, the respondents consented to the described sanctions and to the entry of findings that registered representatives, while associated with the firm, made misrepresentations or omissions of material fact to purchasers of unsecured bridge notes and warrants to purchase common stock of a successor company. The findings stated that the registered representatives guaranteed customers that they would receive back their principal investment plus returns, failed to inform investors of any risks associated with the investments and did not discuss the risks outlined in the private placement memorandum (PPM) that could result in them losing their entire investment. The registered representatives had no reasonable basis for the guarantees given the description of the placement agent’s limited role in the PPM. The findings further stated that the registered representatives provided unwarranted price predictions to customers regarding the future price of common stock for which the warrants would be exchangeable and guaranteed the payment at maturity of promissory notes, which led customers to believe that funds raised by the sale of the anticipated private placement would be held in escrow for redemption of the promissory notes. The findings also stated that the firm, acting through a registered representative, made misrepresentations and/or omissions of material fact to customers in connection with the sale of the private placement of firm units consisting of Class B common stock and warrants to purchase Class A common stock; the PPM stated that the investment was speculative, involving a high degree of risk and was only suitable for persons who could risk losing their entire investment. The findings also included that the representative represented to customers that he would invest their funds in another private placement and in direct contradiction, invested the funds in the firm private placement.
FINRA found that the representatives recommended and effected the sale of these securities without having a reasonable basis to believe that the transactions were suitable given the customers’ financial circumstances and conditions, and their investment objectives. FINRA also found that the representative recommended customers use margin in their accounts, which was unsuitable given their risk tolerance and investment objectives, and he exercised discretion without prior written authorization in customers’ accounts. In addition, FINRA determined that the firm, acting through Locy, its chief operating officer (COO) and president, failed to reasonably supervise the registered representative and failed to follow up on "red flags" that should have alerted him to the need to investigate the representative’s sales practices and determine whether trading restrictions, heightened supervision or discipline were warranted. Moreover, FINRA found that despite numerous red flags, the firm took no steps to contact customers or place the representative on heightened supervision, although it later placed limits only on the representative’s use of margin. The firm eventually suspended his trading authority after additional large margin calls, and Locy failed to ensure that the representative was making accurate representations and suitable recommendations. Furthermore, FINRA found that Turbeville, the firm’s chief executive officer (CEO), and Locy delegated responsibility to Mercier, the firm’s chief compliance officer (CCO), to conduct due diligence on a company and were aware of red flags regarding its offering but did not take steps to investigate. The findings also stated that the firm, acting through Turbeville, Locy and Mercier, failed to establish, maintain and enforce supervisory procedures reasonably designed to prevent violations of NASD Rule 2310 regarding suitability; under the firm’s written supervisory procedures (WSPs), Mercier was responsible for ensuring the offering complied with due diligence requirements but performed only a superficial review and failed to complete the steps required by the WSPs; Locy never evaluated the company’s financial situation and was unsure if a certified public accountant (CPA) audited the financials, and no one visited the company’s facility. The findings also included that neither Turbeville nor Locy took any steps to ensure Mercier had completed the due diligence process.
FINRA found that Turbeville and Locy created the firm’s deficient supervisory system; the firm’s procedures were inadequate to prevent and detect unsuitable recommendations resulting from excessive trading, excessive use of margin and over-concentration; principals did not review trades or correspondence; and the firm’s new account application process was flawed because a reviewing principal was unable to obtain an accurate picture of customers’ financial status, investment objectives and investment history when reviewing a transaction for suitability. FINRA also found that the firm’s procedures failed to identify specific reports that its compliance department was to review and did not provide guidance on the actions or analysis that should occur in response to the reports; Turbeville and Locy knew, or should have known, of the compliance department’s limited reviews, but neither of them took steps to address the inadequate system.
Mercier’s suspension is in effect from October 3, 2011, through January 2, 2012. Locy’s and Turbeville’s suspensions are in effect from October 17, 2011, through January 16, 2012. (FINRA Case #2009017275301).