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FINRA Fines StateTrust Investments $1 Million and Orders $353,000 in Restitution for Charging Unfair Prices in Bond Transactions

On June 26, 2013, FINRA announced that it had fined StateTrust Investments, Inc. $1.045 million and sanctioned the firm’s head trader, Jose Luis Turnes, for charging excessive markups and markdowns in corporate bond transactions and, 85, in particular, that operated as a fraud or deceit upon the customers. FINRA also ordered StateTrust to pay more than $353,000 in restitution, plus interest, to customers who received unfair prices. In addition, Turnes was suspended for six months and fined $75,000. In a related April 2012 action, Jeffrey Cimbal, StateTrust’s Chief Compliance Officer, was fined $20,000 and suspended for five months in a principal capacity for failing to supervise Turnes.

FINRA found that StateTrust charged excessive markups/markdowns to customers in a total of 563 transactions. In 227 instances, the markups or markdowns exceeded 5 percent. In 85 of those instances, StateTrust, acting through Turnes, charged excessive markups and markdowns, ranging from 8 percent to over 23 percent away from the prevailing market price, which operated as a fraud or deceit upon the customers. In each of the 85 instances, StateTrust either bought bonds from its bank or insurance affiliate and then sold the bonds to customers at a price that was 8 percent or more away from the prevailing market; or bought bonds from customers at prices that were 8 percent or more below the prevailing market, and then sold them to its bank or insurance affiliate at a slight markup. During that period, Turnes was also the chairman and largest indirect shareholder of the bank and its insurance affiliates.

StateTrust, Turnes and Cimbal neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings. FINRA’s investigations were conducted by the Departments of Market Regulation, Member Regulation and Enforcement.