Finra fines three firms $900,000 for failing to stop money laundering

Suspicious trading, lack of supervision cited by regulator

May 8, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. today fined three financial companies a total of $900,000 for failing to stop money laundering and other suspicious transactions. Officials at the firms were fined a total of $100,000.

The organization fined Atlas One Financial Group LLC $350,000 and also fined its former chief compliance officer, Napoleon Arturo Aponte, $25,000 and suspended him for three months. Finra hit Firstrade Securities Inc. with a $300,000 fine and World Trade Financial Corp. with a $250,000 fine.

At World Trade Financial, president and owner Rodney Michel was fined $35,000 and suspended for four months, while chief compliance officer Frank Brickell was fined $40,000 and suspended for nine months. Minority owner Jason Adams was fined $5,000 and suspended for three months.

The firms and executives settled with Finra without admitting or denying the charges. Company officials were not available for comment.

Atlas One failed to detect suspicious activities in several accounts between February 2007 and May 2011, despite the fact that the Justice Department had opened a money-laundering investigation in 2007 on six accounts controlled by one customer, according to Finra. The company did not look into any other accounts — with the same Costa Rican mailing address — that were not involved in the Justice review.

Finra said that Firstrade failed to detect suspicious trading activity by Chinese issuers — a market in which the company specializes.

World Trade Financial and its executives were targeted by Finra for not implementing and enforcing a supervisory system for a penny stock operation that generated more than $61 million between March 2009 and August 2011.

“Today's actions reinforce Finra's continued focus on firms' ability to identify and respond to potential misuse and abuse of the markets,” Brad Bennett, Finra executive vice president and chief of enforcement, said in a statement. “Firms must have adequate anti-money-laundering and supervisory systems in place to detect and report suspicious transactions."

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