CFP Board Imposes Public Discipline

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CFP Board Imposes Public Discipline

Nov 13, 2018
Disciplinary actions relate to 7 current or former CFP® professionals

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) announced today public disciplinary actions against the following individuals, effective immediately or on the date noted in each case. Public disciplinary actions taken by CFP Board, in order of increasing severity, include letters of admonition, suspensions and permanent revocations.

This release contains information about recent disciplinary actions relating to seven current or former CFP® professionals. Of these actions, there were three public letters of admonition, three suspensions, and one revocation. 

The basis for each decision can be found in a Disciplinary Action Report below and on CFP Board’s website. The public may check on an individual’s disciplinary history and certification status with CFP Board at www.CFP.net/verify.

CFP Board’s enforcement process is a critical consumer protection. CFP® professionals agree to abide by CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct (Standards), which includes the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Rules of Conduct and Financial Planning Practice Standards

CFP Board enforces its ethical standards by investigating incidents of alleged violations and, where there is probable cause to believe there are grounds for discipline, presenting a Complaint containing the alleged violations to the CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission) pursuant to CFP Board’s Disciplinary Rules and Procedures (Disciplinary Rules).  If the Commission determines there are grounds for discipline, it may impose a sanction ranging from a private censure or public letter of admonition to the suspension or revocation of the right to use the CFP® marks.  CFP Board’s Disciplinary Rules set forth the process for investigating matters and imposing discipline where violations have been found.

The Commission meets at least three times a year to provide a fair, unbiased review of any matter in which a CFP® professional is alleged to have committed violations of the Standards

The Commission functions in accordance with the Disciplinary Rules and reviews all matters on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the details specific to an individual case. While CFP Board has attempted to capture the details relevant to each decision, the summary nature of these releases may omit certain details affecting the decision. Accordingly, the decisions and/or rationale described in the releases may not apply to other cases reviewed by the Commission or reflect the Commission’s future interpretation or application of the Standards.

STATE

NAME

LOCATION

DISCIPLINE

Maryland

Anne Marie C. Albertine, CFP®

Bethesda

Letter of Admonition

Louisiana

James Keith Cox

Baton Rouge

One Year and One Day Suspension

South Carolina

Rick M. Higgins, CFP®

Spartanburg

Letter of Admonition

California

Richard D. Holdway, CFP®

Palm Springs

Letter of Admonition

Nevada

Richard D. LaSpaluto

Las Vegas

One Year and One Day Suspension

New York

Victor Lee

Bayside

Revocation

New York

Jaime Paige Nelson

New York

6-Month Suspension

LETTER OF ADMONITION

CALIFORNIA

Richard D. Holdway, CFP® (Palm Springs): In August 2018, CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission) issued an order whereby Mr. Holdway received a Letter of Admonition. In September 2016, CFP Board received a complaint letter alleging that Mr. Holdway and a subordinate were serving as beneficiaries, trustees, and powers of attorney for numerous clients, in violation of firm policy.  After a hearing, the Commission found that Mr. Holdway failed to adequately supervise a subordinate, which resulted in that subordinate being named as a beneficiary in several client accounts. Further, the Commission found that Mr. Holdway was named as a fiduciary of several client accounts, without prior firm approval. As a result of his conduct, Mr. Holdway was issued a Letter of Reprimand from his firm and a Letter of Caution from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). As a result, the Commission found that Mr. Holdway violated Rules 1.4, 4.3, 4.6, 5.1, and 6.5 of the Rules of Conduct, providing grounds for discipline under Articles 3(A) and 3(G) of the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures.  Accordingly, the Commission issued Mr. Holdway a Letter of Admonition.

MARYLAND

Anne Marie C. Albertine, CFP® (Bethesda): In July 2018, CFP Board issued Ms. Albertine a Letter of Admonition. This discipline followed an appeal of a December 2017 decision by the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission). The Appeals Committee of CFP Board affirmed the Commission’s findings that, as of 2010, Ms. Albertine and her husband suffered a decline in the value of their home as well as business setbacks which led to difficulties making tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”).  Ms. Albertine and her husband reached an agreement with the IRS to pay their outstanding taxes on a month-to-month payment plan, and, in 2014, Ms. Albertine and her husband liquidated assets to make tax payments.  Despite these remedial actions, IRS documents indicate that, by 2016, Ms. Albertine and her husband owed the IRS $163,502.86.  The Commission found, and the Appeals Committee upheld, that Ms. Albertine’s conduct violated Rule 6.5 of the Rules of Conduct, providing grounds for Discipline under Article 3(A) of the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures. Accordingly, CFP Board issued Ms. Albertine a Letter of Admonition.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Rick M. Higgins, CFP® (Spartanburg): In August 2018, CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission) issued an Order whereby Mr. Higgins received a Letter of Admonition. The Commission found that, in 2016, Mr. Higgins was terminated from his firm for having clients sign blank switch letters and acknowledgement forms. Thereafter, Mr. Higgins entered into a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in which he consented to findings that he maintained customer-signed, but otherwise blank forms, for approximately 130 clients. The FINRA AWC provided that these pre-signed documents were then submitted to Mr. Higgins’ firm after the execution of relevant transactions. As a result, the Commission found that Mr. Higgins violated Rules 4.3 and 5.1 of the Rules of Conduct, providing grounds for discipline under Articles 3(A) and 3(D) of the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures.  Accordingly, the Commission issued Mr. Higgins a Letter of Admonition.

SUSPENSION

LOUISIANA

James Keith Cox (Baton Rouge): In August 2018, CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission) issued an order whereby Mr. Cox received a suspension of his right to use the CFP® certification marks for one year and one day.  The Commission found that, in 2017, Mr. Cox entered into a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in which he consented to findings that: (1) he recommended several annuity transactions in 2014 to one client without a reasonable basis; (2) he engaged in an outside business activity with the same client without providing prior written notice to his firm; and (3) he made several unsuitable recommendations to a client which resulted in a more than $25,000 commission for Mr. Cox.  Mr. Cox consented to a four-month FINRA suspension.  The Commission also found that Mr. Cox failed to notify CFP Board within 30 days that he was suspended from FINRA, as required by Article 13.2 of the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures (Disciplinary Rules). Further, the Commission found that Mr. Cox was the subject of two FINRA arbitrations, both of which alleged unsuitability.  As a result, the Commission determined that Mr. Cox violated Rules 1.4, 2.1, 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5 of the Rules of Conduct, providing grounds under Articles 3(A), 3(D), and 3(E) of the Disciplinary Rules.  Accordingly, the Commission suspended Mr. Cox with regard to the above-mentioned conduct. Mr. Cox’s suspension is effective from October 29, 2018, until October 30, 2019.

NEW YORK

Jaime Paige Nelson (New York): In August 2018, CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission) issued an order whereby Ms. Nelson received a suspension of her right to use the CFP® certification marks for six months. The Commission found that Ms. Nelson misrepresented her completion of CFP Board Continuing Education (CE) credit hours for the June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2017 reporting period and that, as a result, Ms. Nelson had a CE deficiency of more than 25 credit hours. Further, the Commission found that Ms. Nelson had also falsely reported CE credit hours for the reporting periods of June 1, 2013, to May 31, 2015, and June 1, 2011, to May 31, 2013.  In total, the Commission found that that Ms. Nelson had misrepresented to CFP Board the completion of 54 CE courses (or 68.5 credit hours) over a period of approximately five years. As a result, the Commission found that Ms. Nelson had violated Rule 6.2 of the Rules of Conduct, providing grounds for discipline under Articles 3(A) and 3(G) of the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures (Disciplinary Rules).  Accordingly, the Commission suspended Ms. Nelson with regard to the above-mentioned conduct. Ms. Nelson’s suspension is effective from October 29, 2018, until April 29, 2019.

NEVADA

Richard D. LaSpaluto (Las Vegas): In August 2018, CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission) issued an order whereby Mr. LaSpaluto received a suspension of his right to use the CFP® certification marks for one year and one day. This discipline followed the Commission’s finding that between 2008 and 2016, Mr. LaSpaluto fell behind on the taxes he owed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As a result, the IRS filed a tax lien against Mr. LaSpaluto in 2016 in the amount of $91,603.84. Despite being aware of the lien by at least 2017, Mr. LaSpaluto failed to notify CFP Board of the IRS action. The Commission also found that, during the course of CFP Board’s investigation into Mr. LaSpaluto’s tax lien, he failed to adequately respond to requests by CFP Board Staff. As a result, the Commission found that Mr. LaSpaluto violated Rule 6.5 of the Rules of Conduct, providing grounds for Discipline under Articles 3(A) and 3(F) of the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures.  Accordingly, the Commission suspended Mr. LaSpaluto with regard to the above-mentioned conduct. Mr. LaSpaluto’s suspension is effective from October 29, 2018, until October 30, 2019.

REVOCATION

NEW YORK

Victor Lee (Bayside):  In August 2018, CFP Board’s Disciplinary and Ethics Commission (Commission) issued an order permanently revoking Mr. Lee’s right to use the CFP® certification marks. This discipline followed the Commission’s finding that Mr. Lee was terminated from his firm for failing to disclose an outside business activity. The Commission also found that Mr. Lee entered into a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), whereby Mr. Lee consented to a permanent bar and the following findings: (1) that he engaged in an undisclosed business activity; (2) that he created at least 50 partnership agreements whereby he affixed inaccurate information to the agreements; and (3) that he failed to conduct due diligence in drafting the aforementioned agreements.  Mr. Lee also failed to disclose his FINRA bar to CFP Board, as required by the Disciplinary Rules and Procedures (Disciplinary Rules).  As a result, the Commission found that Mr. Lee violated Rules 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, and 5.1 of the Rules of Conduct, providing grounds for discipline under Article 3(A), 3(D), and 3(E) of the Disciplinary Rules.  Accordingly, the Commission issued an Order of Revocation to Mr. Lee. The revocation was effective as of September 27, 2018.

ABOUT CFP BOARD

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is a professional body for personal financial planners in the U.S.  CFP Board sets standards for financial planning and administers the prestigious CFP® certification – one of the most respected certifications in financial services – so that the public has access to and benefits from competent and ethical financial planning.  CFP Board, along with its Center for Financial Planning, is committed to increasing the public’s awareness of CFP® certification and access to a diverse, ethical and competent financial planning workforce. Widely recognized by firms as the standard for financial planning, CFP® certification is held by 82,000 people in the United States.

CONTACT: Dan Drummond, Director of Communications P: 202-379-2252 M: 202-243-8621 E: ddrummond@cfpboard.org Twitter: @cfpboardmedia

Speaker's Bureau
CFP Board’s leadership and representatives are available for interviews and speaking engagements on personal finance, the financial planning profession, CFP Board and the CFP® designation.

Did You Know?

Among clients who work with an advisor, 87% of those working with a CFP® professional are satisfied or very satisfied, compared with 72% of those who work with an advisor without certification.
Anyone can call themselves a “financial planner.” Only professionals who meet CFP Board’s rigorous standards can call themselves CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals.
The 2013 Household Financial Planning Survey shows that those with a financial plan feel more confident and report more success managing money, savings and investments than those without a plan.
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