A FINRA hearing panel has barred a former Wells Fargo advisor for stealing $143,000 from a joint brokerage account he held with a client who was his half-brother.
Jeffrey Krupnick opened eight brokerage accounts for his much older sibling, one of which was the jointly owned account, FINRA said in the hearing panel's decision this month.
For nearly three years, he allegedly transferred funds from his brother's other Wells Fargo accounts and deposited them into the joint account. While Krupnick made some authorized purchases on his client's behalf with funds from the joint account, he used most of the money for himself to pay off credit card debts, fund home improvements and pay wedding expenses, FINRA claimed.
By the regulator's calculations, Krupnick misappropriated some $143,000 of his brother's funds for his own use without his brother's knowledge or approval. The brother, 62 and 20 years older than Krupnick, had been semi-retired since the late 1990s, according to FINRA.
"The evidence shows that Krupnick treated [his half-brother's] joint account as if it were his personal bank account," the FINRA panel said in its decision.
Krupnick, who did not appear at the hearing and could not be reached for comment, denied misusing the funds, saying that his brother consented to the transactions. His accused his brother of making false allegations in retaliation for his having intervened in his brother's personal life in an effort to help him out.
Krupnick claimed that his brother had a dispute with local police arising out of illegal drug-dealing in Hawaii, where his brother lived. When Krupnick called the local police department on his brother's behalf, he became angry and retaliated by filing a complaint with Krupnick's supervisors, according to Krupnick.
The hearing panel, however, didn't buy the argument, saying that the complaint was filed prior to his brother's trouble with the local police.
The transfers to and withdrawals from the joint brokerage account occurred from January 2012 to November 2014 and increased over time. In 2012, there were 19 transactions; in 2013, there were 35; and in 2014, there were 49, according to FINRA.
"Krupnick's bald assertion that [his half-brother], a semi-retired businessman in this early sixties, would give him carte blanche to transfer money from his Wells Fargo accounts into the joint account to borrow and use for whatever he wished, without interest, without an agreement to repay, is not only contradicted by [his half-brother's] testimony, but is inconsistent with common sense," the FINRA panel ruled.
Krupnick worked for Wells Fargo in Sarasota, Florida from May 2009 to November 2014, when he voluntarily resigned, according to BrokerCheck records. In a statement in his BrokerCheck report, Krupnick asserted that his brother's complaint stemmed from a "family feud" and denied any wrongdoing with regard to how his accounts were managed. Furthermore, he claimed that the complaint was due to his brother's addiction to prescription drugs.
Krupnick's former partner at Wells Fargo, however, testified during the hearing that Krupnick visited his home after he resigned and eventually admitted – in tears – to having taken his brother's money, FINRA said in its decision.
Wells Fargo mediated a settlement in which Krupnick repaid his brother $121,000, funds he claimed his brother had loaned him, and Wells Fargo contributed $22,000 to make him whole, according to FINRA.
Emily Acquisto, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, declined to comment on the matter.
In addition to getting barred, the FINRA hearing panel ordered Krupnick to pay $4,435 for the cost of hearing transcripts and other fees. If he does not appeal the decision, it becomes final on February 26.