A former administrator for brokerage firm Edward Jones has been permanently barred from the securities industry after stealing $63,000 from 21 customers. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Carolyn Avia Harmon took $63,000 in customer funds between November 2006 and September 2009.
Ms. Harmon was an unregistered branch office administrator at an Edward Jones office in North Carolina. Edward Jones fired Ms. Harmon when it learned that she took customers’ money. FINRA then started an investigation into the matter. Ms. Harmon failed to respond to FINRA’s requests for information and she did not appear at the disciplinary proceeding, and FINRA ultimately entered a default against Ms. Harmon, which including permanently barring Ms. Harmon from the securities industry.
While working for Edward Jones, Ms. Harmon processed account transfers and opened and closed accounts. According to FINRA, Harmon’s conduct cast doubt on her ability to comply with FINRA’s regulatory requirements and on her capacity to fulfill her fiduciary duties. So, while Edward Jones offered to pay restitution to all 21 of the affected customers, we question how Edward Jones permitted such conduct to take place over such a long period of time without catching and stopping Ms. Harmon sooner.
Ms. Harmon deposited funds intended for a number of customer accounts into her husband’s account, eventually transferring the majority of the funds into her own account. According to FINRA, she then used that stolen money to pay personal bills. She apparently forged her husband’s signature on several letters in order to transfer the funds without her husband’s knowledge or authorization.
Edward Jones learned that Ms. Harmon was stealing customers’ money in November 2009 when a Field Supervisor discovered that certain checks that were supposed to be deposited into customer accounts never were deposited. The firm then tracked the missing deposits to Ms. Harmon’s husband’s account. Upon being questioned, Ms. Harmon said she didn’t know why the funds had been deposited in her husband’s account, suggesting that it was an administrative error. After further questioning, Ms. Harmon admitted that she diverted the customers’ funds to her husband’s account in order to help out a relative.