Jones Broker Who Bet on Ponies Ripped Off Elderly Client—Finra
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority continued its pursuit of advisors who take advantage of elderly clients on Friday by charging a former Edward Jones broker in eastern Oklahoma with stealing $36,000 from an 83-year-old man with dementia.
Austin W. Morton, whose brokerage career began at Jones in 2011 and ended last November, allegedly took more than $22,000 that the customer left in Morton’s car in September following a lunch date after the customer liquidated his retirement account, according to the complaint.
A month later the broker filled out a signed blank check from the customer for another $22,000, which Morton characterized as a loan, it said.
Morton, who could not be reached for comment, had racked up gambling debts due to extensive online and on-track horse race betting that exceeded his income from Edward Jones, according to the February 24 enforcement complaint.
“[I]n 2016 Morton incurred close to $130,000 in losses from Online Site A, the primary online horse racing wagering facility with which he placed bets at the time,” the complaint said. “[I]n September 2016 alone, the month in which he committed his first act of conversion, Morton made 38 separate deposits into his Online Site A account, totaling more than $17,300.”
Finra charged Morton with both converting funds and engaging in an undisclosed outside business activity. The latter refers to his alleged receipt of a $2,000 payment from the customer for helping to locate and surrender an annuity.
On his BrokerCheck record, Morton denied Jones’ termination charges. Since the “gentleman,…a long time family friend,” had closed his account, “he was no longer a client,” the broker wrote.
Finra, which has warned brokers and firms of their growing responsibilities to monitor the mental facilities of aging clients, is seeking unspecified sanctions and disgorgement of the money from Morton.
Jones learned of the allegations after being contacted by the customer’s daughter, according to BrokerCheck.
A spokesman for Edward Jones wrote in an email that the firm terminated Morton shortly after learning of the allegations and cooperated fully with Finra’s investigation.
“As soon as Edward Jones became aware of allegations that Austin Morton had accepted money from a client without properly disclosing it, the firm conducted an investigation,” the spokesman wrote. “A short time later—Nov. 18, 2016—he was terminated.”
Morton, who worked in Sallisaw, OK, was managing around $35 million for 500 households at the time he was discharged, according to the complaint.
Since April 2015, when Finra set up an elder abuse help line, the self-regulator has referred 531 matters to regulators and made 119 referrals to adult protective services in 16 states, according to a Finra spokeswoman. Firms have voluntarily returned $3 million to clients, she said.
She did not immediately respond to questions as to whether Finra has pressed charges against any firms for failing to supervise brokers accused of elder abuse.