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FINRA has accused James Arnold Busch, a former Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) broker, of stealing at least $1.3 million from customers in Georgia. Most of these customers were elderly women. Without admitting or denying the findings, prior to a regulatory hearing, and without an adjudication of any issue, Busch submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”), which FINRA accepted.

James A. Busch worked as a wealth adviser at a Wells Fargo branch in Brunswick, GA. He was fired in October of 2013 after Wells Fargo had discovered Mr. Busch’s alleged misconduct and handed the case to the FBI.

Acceptance, Waiver & Consent

According to the AWC, Busch had access to his customers’ bank account information. Between 2006 and 2013, Mr. Busch requested payments from his customers’ accounts to his personal credit-card account. FINRA alleges that Busch enacted thefts from his clients’ accounts prior to 2009 by contacting his credit card company via a paper debit memo which authorized payments from his customers’ bank account to his credit card account. Then Busch paid off his credit cards with customer bank funds electronically. He provided his credit card company with the customers’ bank routing and account numbers to withdraw money from their accounts to pay his credit card bills. Between approximately 2009 and 2013, the AWC alleges that Busch usually called his credit card company’s automated system and processed similar transfers.

According to FINRA

James Arnold Busch sold customers’ stock and other assets to generate cash to use for payment on his credit cards. “In some instances, Busch liquidated securities from the customers’ brokerage accounts in order to generate cash. The cash was transferred from the customers’ brokerage accounts to the customers’ bank accounts prior to Busch’s misappropriation of the funds.”

James Arnold Busch has been a broker since 1989, and joined Wells Fargo in 2000. He was a wealth advisor at various WFC bank branches, and many of his customers had both bank and brokerage accounts. Investment firms like Wells Fargo have a duty to their clients. The duty is to protect, perform due diligence and manage customer’s accounts responsibly. Had Wells Fargo followed through with their duties, most likely, a routine internal investigation within Wells Fargo should have alerted bank supervisors to James Busch’s account mismanagement.

According to FINRA, Busch violated NASD Rule 2330(a) for his conduct prior to December 2009 and FINRA Rule 2150(a) for his conduct after December 2009 along with NASD Rule 2110 for his conduct prior to December 2008 and FINRA Rule 2010 for his conduct after December 2008. FINRA Barred Busch from associating with any FINRA member in all capacities.

James Arnold Busch’s conduct went on for seven years, from 2006 until 2013, without setting off any internal compliance or supervision red flags. Mr. Busch stole a known $1.3 million dollars from mostly elderly women who were customers at WFC. Wells Fargo issued a statement assuring the public that they are “talking to clients who may have been affected by this matter and all who we determine to have suffer losses will be repaid.” However, if you had investments with James Busch, or the Wells Fargo branch at 1505 Newcastle St. in Brunswick, Georgia 31520 your investment accounts should be reviewed by a professional to determine if they have been affected by James Busch’s unauthorized bank account transfers or securities transactions.

Guiliano Law Group

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