FINRA suspends ex-Citi broker for alleged unsuitable muni bond recommendation

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A former Citigroup broker was suspended for two months and fined $10,000 for allegedly making an unsuitable recommendation to two of the bank’s retail customers, according to his settlement with FINRA last week.

Mehran Tazhibi, a financial advisor with Citigroup in Albany, California, recommended that a recently retired couple invest approximately $135,000 in a non-investment grade municipal bond intended by the issuer only for sale to institutional buyers, FINRA claimed.
Proceeds from the bond offering would finance the acquisition and construction of a multi-story building for the Thomas Jefferson School of Law's new campus in San Diego, according to FINRA. The bond was to mature in October 2032 and pay interest at an annual rate of 7.25%.

When Tazhibi made the recommendation in July 2013, the bond had already been downgraded to a speculative credit rating of BB, according to FINRA.

FINRA scolded Tazhibi for recommending an investment that was at odds with his customers' financial situation and the bond's intended market. The couple was interested in investing for income and growth and had a conservative risk tolerance, FINRA said.

"Tazhibi did not have a reasonable basis to believe that the non-investment grade, speculative-rated bond was suitable," FINRA wrote in the settlement.

Tazhibi could not be reached. His attorney, Peter Boutin of San Francisco law firm Keesal, Young & Logan, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In his settlement with FINRA, Tazhibi neither admitted nor denied the allegations but consented to an entry of FINRA's findings.

Tazhibi worked for Citigroup from June 2010 to September 2013 and was registered with Citigroup Global Markets during that time, according to BrokerCheck records. He subsequently worked for Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and Fidelity Brokerage Services.

Danielle Romero-Apsilos, a spokeswoman for Citigroup, declined to comment on the matter.

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Regulatory actions and programs Compliance Bank Advisor FINRA Citigroup