Justin Thomas Maher, of New Haven, Connecticut, a stockbroker registered with Northwestern Mutual Investment Services LLC, has been fined $10,000.00 and suspended for twelve months from associating with any Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) member in any capacity because Maher engaged in undisclosed outside business activities related to crypto assets, and participated in private securities transactions without prior written notification to the securities broker dealer. Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent No. 2021072629201 (September 28, 2023).
On October 22, 2021, Northwestern Mutual Investment Services (NMIS) reported that Maher was allowed to resign during an internal review. The review was centered around allegations suggesting that Maher was part of a cryptocurrency scam. Although Maher accepted that he had invested in initial coin offerings and was involved in undisclosed cryptocurrency related outside business ventures, he refuted allegations of scheming to manipulate coin prices.
FINRA’s examination of Maher’s activities during 2021 revealed that he was deeply involved in several crypto assets-related outside business activities. Beginning in 2021, Maher was an integral part of a social media marketing group that advocated crypto asset investments. Within this role, Maher oversaw online content and proposed crypto assets to be part of the organization’s endorsements.
By spring 2021, Maher played a pivotal role in establishing a crypto asset named EthereumMax (EMAX). He contributed some of the initial capital required to form the asset, assisted in recruiting a marketing team, and was instrumental in handling the crypto asset’s online presence. He organized payments to renowned celebrity endorsers. From August to October 2021, Maher extended his expertise as a consultant for another crypto asset, the Level UP coin. And in October 2021, he took on a significant position as a managing member of a crypto asset advisory firm that aimed to design and profit from various blockchain innovations.
In numerous cases, Maher was recognized as a partner or independent contractor of these ventures. He also anticipated, and at times received, remuneration for these undertakings. Notably, none of these activities were made known to NMIS, which had a clear policy prohibiting its associates from being part of crypto asset-related businesses. Hence, this omission on Maher’s part resulted in the violation of FINRA Rules 3270 and 2010.
FINRA found Maher to be involved in more than 30 private securities transactions during 2021, specifically with three crypto assets: EMAX, PEEPS, and Level Up tokens. Despite NMIS’s strict policy against such activities, Maher not only invested his own resources into these crypto assets but also actively promoted and facilitated others’ investments. He was deeply entrenched in marketing these assets, personally pouring approximately $40,000 into them, reaching out to potential investors to promote the assets, and providing support in the acquisition process.
As a consequence of his actions, a minimum of 33 people invested a combined total of at least $245,000 directly with the developers of the crypto assets. Maher never informed NMIS of his involvement in these transactions. Therefore, he violated FINRA Rules 3280 and 2010.
Maher was associated with Northwestern Mutual Investment Services LLC in New Haven, Connecticut from February 1, 2010, to October 22, 2021.