FINRA fines former Wells Fargo broker $10,000 for fair dealing violations

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A former Wells Fargo Clearing Services broker has agreed to pay $10,000 to settle charges that he violated a municipal securities fair dealing rule after the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority found he entered into transactions without his customer’s prior authorization.

Charles Bridgers agreed on Wednesday to pay the fine and agreed to a three-month suspension while neither admitting nor denying FINRA’s findings that he violated Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board’s Rule G-17 on fair dealing. Rule G-17 states that dealers “shall deal fairly with all persons and shall not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice.”

On Jan. 9, 2018, Bridgers entered into two municipal-securities transactions in a customer’s brokerage account without the customer’s prior authorization, FINRA found. Bridgers also allegedly entered notes in the firm’s customer-management system that falsely stated that he had spoken to that customer before executing the transaction.

That customer, “CS,” died on Jan. 6, 2018, and was a longtime customer of Bridgers and Wells Fargo, FINRA said.

On Jan. 9, 2019, before learning of the customer’s death, Bridgers entered two municipal-bond orders in their account. Bridgers placed both trades without their authorization, FINRA found.

Bridgers also allegedly created false records by entering notes in the firm’s customer management system.

“These notes stated falsely that Bridgers spoke with CS regarding the bond orders and about the account generally on January 9 and January 11, 2018,” FINRA said. “Bridgers created these false notes in an attempt to circumvent the firm's internal controls and conceal that the transactions were unauthorized.”

In February 2018, Wells Fargo fired Bridgers. He had no relevant disciplinary history.

Bridgers started working in the securities industry in 1984. He was with Wells Fargo Clearing Services Inc. since 1999 as a general securities representative. He previously spent two years at brokerage firm First Union Capital Markets before working at Merrill Lynch from 1984 to 1997, according to FINRA’s BrokerCheck system.

Patrick Fleming, Bridgers' attorney, declined to comment. Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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