The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged three advisers for violating the
testimonial rule by promoting their business on Yelp.
According to separate SEC filings, Jaime Biel, William Greenfield and Brian Eyster hired Leonard Schwartz, the
owner and president of marketing consultancy firm Create Your Fate, for a
service Mr. Schwartz calls Squeaky Clean Reputation.
The service contacts an investment adviser's clients and
asks them to post testimonials on the investment adviser's behalf to Yelp.com
and other social media websites. The SEC's testimonial rule prohibits RIAs from
publishing, circulating or distributing any advertisement that refers to any testimonial
concerning the investment adviser.
Each were fined $10,000 and agreed to a cease-and-desist
order. The SEC also fined Mr. Biel's registered investment adviser firm, HBA
Mr. Greenfield is the owner and president of WealthBridge Advisory
Services and is a registered representative of TFS Securities, a dually
registered investment adviser and broker-dealer.
Mr. Eyster is an adviser with O.N. Investment Management
Company and a registered rep of O.N. Equity Sales Co. Both are affiliated with
Ohio National Financial Services.
Mr. Schwartz, who goes by "Dr.
Len," will pay civil penalties of $35,000 and also agreed to a
YOUTUBE HOT WATER, TOO
case, Romano Brothers & Company, an
Illinois-based RIA, was fined $35,000 for creating a 31-minute-long YouTube
video that featured testimonials from 27 clients. The video was published on
Romano Brothers' public website and YouTube.com, and was shown to guests at a
party celebrating the firm's 50th anniversary. Romano Brothers had commissioned
a shorter version of the video to use for marketing.
The firm also was censured and will pay a $15,000 fine.
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