Stifel Branch Manager Trampled in Deer-Breeding Scheme
A Stifel Nicolaus branch manager in Alabama, has agreed to pay $750,000 in state and federal fines for covertly importing whitetail deer from Indiana to his breeding farm near Tuscaloosa in a settlement that has roused controversy in the state.
Lewis “Sonny” Skinner, who led a five-advisor team that moved to Stifel from Merrill Lynch two years ago, violated laws aimed at preventing the spread of a fatal disease in white-tailed deer by knowingly importing six deer to Alabama, state authorities announced on October 5. His plea agreement, following his November 2016 arrest, was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham.
A Stifel spokesman declined comment on the settlement and on whether the firm or securities regulators have sanctioned Skinner or may do so.
The broker, whose team Stifel credited with overseeing about $370 million of assets when it left Merrill in 2015, has not reported any “other business activities” on his annual U-4 filings, according to his BrokerCheck report.
Skinner, who in addition to breeding deer has led a country-music trio at a local restaurant, did not return a call for comment on his settlement or his activities as an advisor.
Everett Nix, one of Skinner’s partners, said the locally publicized settlement has had “no effect at all” on Skinner’s ability to run the branch and has not attracted questions from clients.
Comments in local publications about Skinner’s arrest and settlement ranged from outrage against conservation enforcement officers for dictatorial wildlife management practices to consternation over “high-fence” breeders’ greed and their willingness to jeopardize Alabama’s $1.8 billion deer-hunting industry.
Some wondered whether the state would ever collect the fines or how Skinner could afford the hefty settlement.
“My god. If the man has750k to hand over for being caught, I am definitely getting into the deer breeding game!” one commenter wrote on AL.com.
Skinner was not identified in prosecutors’ releases or in news stories reviewed by AdvisorHub as a financial advisor. His fines include $100,000 that will be allocated to the federal Lacey Act Reward Fund and $650,000 to support enforcement of Alabama’s wildlife and freshwater fisheries laws.
Skinner, who first registered as a representative with F. N. Wolf in 1991, also has worked at J.C. Bradford and its successor UBS Financial Services, according to his BrokerCheck history. He has no disclosures of customer, regulatory or legal complaints listed on his record.