SEC censures, fines advisers for Yelp endorsements

Three advisers paid marketing consultant to solicit clients for online testimonials

Jul 11, 2018 @ 1:51 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged three advisers for violating the testimonial rule by promoting their business on Yelp.

According to separate SEC filings, Jaime Biel, William Greenfield and Brian Eyster hired Leonard Schwartz, the owner and president of marketing consultancy firm Create Your Fate, for a service Mr. Schwartz calls Squeaky Clean Reputation.

The service contacts an investment adviser's clients and asks them to post testimonials on the investment adviser's behalf to Yelp.com and other social media websites. The SEC's testimonial rule prohibits RIAs from publishing, circulating or distributing any advertisement that refers to any testimonial concerning the investment adviser.

Each were fined $10,000 and agreed to a cease-and-desist order. The SEC also fined Mr. Biel's registered investment adviser firm, HBA Advisors, $15,000.

Mr. Greenfield is the owner and president of WealthBridge Advisory Services and is a registered representative of TFS Securities, a dually registered investment adviser and broker-dealer.

Mr. Eyster is an adviser with O.N. Investment Management Company and a registered rep of O.N. Equity Sales Co. Both are affiliated with Ohio National Financial Services.

Mr. Schwartz, who goes by "Dr. Len," will pay civil penalties of $35,000 and also agreed to a cease-and-desist order.

YOUTUBE HOT WATER, TOO

In another case, Romano Brothers & Company, an Illinois-based RIA, was fined $15,000 for creating a 31-minute-long YouTube video that featured testimonials from 27 clients. The video was published on Romano Brothers' public website and YouTube.com, and was shown to guests at a party celebrating the firm's 50th anniversary. Romano Brothers had commissioned a shorter version of the video to use for marketing.

The firm also was censured and must cease and desist from future violations.

0
Comments

What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Featured video

Events

Retirement: it's no longer about feeding pigeons from a park bench.

Today's retiree's expect so much from retirement than previous generations and advisers are in prime position to help their clients what's important and what's not.

Latest news & opinion

Cetera Financial Group close to announcing its acquisition by private equity

Details of sale to one or more P-E firms could be announced as early as today.

10 best states for retirement

When it comes to places to retire, here are the 10 best states for enjoying your golden years.

Focus Financial raises goal for IPO to $600 million

Company's revised goal from $100 million could be a sign RIA valuations are rising.

CFA Institute adding crypto, blockchain to curriculum

Subjects will be added to its Level I and II coursework for the first time next year.

Trump tax plan making dividend ETFs hot

Funds that are seeing inflows largely steer clear of sectors like utilities.

X

Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.

X

Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print