Attention certified financial planners: Don’t count on hiding your financial troubles because federal regulators and the CFP Board are all interested in what they may indicate about your trustworthiness.

If you don’t monitor your credit report closely, you may not even know that you’ve been subjected to a lien or other court judgment. Creditors may not have served you with papers properly. Your identity may have been stolen. You may have signed an agreement many years ago, perhaps when moving from one brokerage firm to another.

“It’s the little things in contracts that people don’t recall or appreciate that can have significant consequences on their licenses and registrations,” says Jennifer Woods Burke, a securities and compliance attorney in Jersey City, N.J, who has represented financial planners and financial institutions in regulatory matters.

Ignorance is no excuse, if you fail to notify the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) within 30 days of a bankruptcy, lien, judgment or compromise with creditors you are at risk for a regulatory action. You could be fined up to $25,000 for missing the deadline. A “willful failure to file’’ doubles the potential fine and adds the risk of a suspension or bar.

In a double whammy, you could end up having to defend your license with the CFP Board and explain away both your financial problems and your failure to meet your FINRA reporting obligations. If your identity has been stolen, you may ultimately not be disciplined, but you may have to prove your case. So be sure to keep close track of your credit report and any other financial issues, such as tax problems. State liens, for example, may not make it to a credit report.

Last week, the CFP Board announced its most recent disciplinary actions. In the case of Dale R. Aldieri, of Middletown, Conn., the Board had suspended his right to call himself a CFP for a year and a day because he had acted as a supervisor without FINRA registration, had been disciplined by FINRA and failed to notify CFP in time. On appeal, the CFP reduced the suspension to a letter of admonishment.  

But a CFP can go bankrupt without losing the CFP designation. Stuart L. Funke, of West Linn, Ore., received only a Letter of Admonition, even though he had a Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year. The same was true of Craig Alan Horner of San Diego.



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