Finra Bars Ex-Merrill Complex Manager Over Expense Accounts
In a sign that expense account issues plaguing brokers have also affected management, a former Merrill Lynch complex manager in Cincinnati accepted a brokerage industry bar this week for falsely claiming almost $2,000 in travel expenses.
On “multiple occasions” between 2014 and 2016, John Robert Nicholson intentionally overstated the miles that he had traveled to visit branches under his purview, according to a letter of acceptance, waiver and consent accepted by Finra on Monday that prohibits him form working with member firms in any capacity.
Nicholson, who worked at Merrill for 21 years and ran its Ohio Valley complex until his voluntary resignation in November 2016, “converted” $1,960 from the firm, according to the order. Finra said the theft violated its Rule 2010, which requires brokers to act with “high standards of commercial honor.”
The manager, who accepted the bar without admitting or denying the findings, represented himself in the case.
Nicholson did not immediately return a request for comment sent through LinkedIn. He resigned from Merrill in November 2016 while under investigation, and worked at SunTrust Investment Services for the first eight months of 2017, according to his BrokerCheck record.
A spokesman for Merrill, which has revised its expense account policies after finding widespread submission errors by employees, declined to comment.
Finra last week expelled former Morgan Stanley broker John Baldeck in Idaho, who was fired for seeking reimbursement of $273 in expenses. Baldeck, who repaid the money, admitted that he expensed a dinner with with his daughters, but commented on his BrokerCheck report that he believed he was entitled to use money that had been deducted pretax from his paycheck.
Nicholson began his brokerage career at Merrill in Cincinnati in 1995, and became a complex sales manager in 1999, according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to assuming oversight of the Ohio Valley market in late 2014, he managed offices in the southeast and in Wisconsin, his profile says. He has three financial “disclosure” events on his BrokerCheck record coinciding with his years at Merrill—two involving $810,000 in mortgage payments to banks and a tax lien for $35,000. Each was resolved.