CFP Board Imposes Interim Suspension on Michael R. Severance
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) announced that it has imposed an automatic interim suspension of the CFP® certification on Michael R. Severance of Loretto, Minnesota, which was effective as of December 31, 2019.
CFP Board imposed an automatic interim suspension after receiving evidence that Mr. Severance entered into a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”) with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) on November 22, 2019, which barred him from associating with any FINRA member in any capacity after he refused to produce information requested by FINRA staff pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210. FINRA had requested the information in connection with its investigation of the circumstances regarding a $5,000 fine imposed upon Mr. Severance by the Minnesota Department of Commerce for breaching his fiduciary duty, demonstrating incompetence and/or financial irresponsibility in his dealings, and failing to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade in the services he provided to a 71-year old client in violation of Minnesota state law. Mr. Severance was also subject to a six-month suspension by Minnesota, which was stayed. In addition, FINRA was investigating Mr. Severance termination from his firm after the firm discovered that he provided bill-paying services to a firm customer, for compensation, and that the firm customer had given a monetary gift to Mr. Severance’s son in excess of $100, without Mr. Severance notifying the firm or obtaining the firm’s approval.
Pursuant to Article 5.7 of CFP Board’s Disciplinary Rules and Procedures, “[a]n interim suspension shall immediately be issued without a hearing when CFP Board Counsel receives evidence of…a professional discipline in accordance with Article 13.1 for…revocation of a financial professional license.” Article 5.7 also provides that “a letter or other writing from a governmental or industry self-regulatory authority to the effect that a Respondent has been the subject of an order of professional discipline…by such authority, shall conclusively establish the existence of such.”
Under the automatic interim suspension order, Mr. Severance’s right to use the CFP® certification marks is suspended pending CFP Board’s completed investigation and possible further disciplinary proceedings.
CFP Board’s enforcement process is a critical consumer protection. CFP® professionals agree to abide by CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct (Code and Standards). The Code and Standards sets forth the ethical standards for financial planners who hold the CFP® certification.
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.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is the 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 and consumer groups as the standard for financial planning, CFP® certification is held by more than 86,000 people in the United States.