FINRA Fines, Suspends Scott Lawrence Olson (Melbourne, Florida) Following Use of Misleading, Exaggerated Advertisements

Scott Lawrence Olson (CRD #711256, Registered Principal, Melbourne, Florida) submitted an Offer of Settlement in which he was censured, fined $10,000, suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 20 business days, and required to file with FINRA’s Advertising Regulation Department all advertisements and sales literature and to await FINRA staff approval before using, publishing or distributing any such communication for one year. The suspension was in effect from April 15, 2013, through May 10, 2013. See FINRA Case #2008012099102. Olson was registered with Merrimac Corporate Securities, Inc., in Melbourne from April 2010 to April 2013. Olson previously was registered with World Equity Group, Inc., and Mutual Service Corp., also in Melbourne.

Without admitting or denying the allegations, Olson consented to the described sanctions and to the entry of findings that he marketed annuities, life insurance and investment services to the public through the use of advertisements that contained misleading, unwarranted, unbalanced and promissory statements; failed to identify the products or services that Olson was using to implement his investment strategies; and failed to obtain his member firm’s pre-use approval for some of the advertisements.

The findings stated that Olson was aware of notices from FINRA’s Department of Advertising Regulation, which advised him that advertisements were violative but continued to submit violative advertisements to his firms for their approval and to publicly distribute them. In order to be able to continue this pattern of misconduct, Olson failed to disclose the first notice to one of his firms. While he disclosed the existence of the second notice to the other firm, he did not provide a copy of it to that firm and falsely advised the firm that he had remedied the violative conduct in his advertisement. Olson failed to obtain pre-approval from the firms for other advertisements.

The findings further stated that a firm approved Olson to engage in outside business activities through which he offered estate planning, investment advice and investment products such as annuities and life insurance. Olson publicly distributed advertisements on a website, at seminars and in newspapers. The advertisements contained numerous misleading, exaggerated or unwarranted statements. Olson either received or was advised of the first notice by his firm at or about the time that it was issued.

The findings also included that Olson requested and received the second firm’s approval to continue his outside business activities, but failed to disclose the first notice to the firm when he became associated with the firm and ignored the warnings he had received as a result of the first notice. Advertising Regulation issued a second notice to Olson’s second firm describing violations very similar to the violations described in the first notice but also identified additional violations. Olson continued to submit for approval and/or publicly distribute additional violative advertisements. The advertisements violated the requirements that advertisements be fair and balanced, provide a sound basis for evaluating the products being discussed, and not omit material information. The advertisements made statements that created unrealistic expectations by using misleading, exaggerated or unwarranted language, and also used inherently misleading illustrations.

FINRA found that Olson became associated with a third firm and, again, requested and received approval to advertise and engage in outside business activities. Olson failed to disclose the first notice to the third firm and, while he disclosed the second notice, he did not provide a copy of it to that firm. Olson represented to the firm that his advertisements had been remedied to comply with the instructions in the second notice. Olson submitted for approval and publicly distributed advertisements, violating the requirements that communications to the public be fair and balanced, provide a sound basis for evaluating the products being discussed, not omit material information, and not create unrealistic expectations by using exaggerated and unwarranted language. FINRA also found that Olson was on notice that the contents were violative because such content was similar or identical to content that was the subject of the first and second notices. While registered with his second and third firm, Olson failed to obtain approval from a registered principal of his firm prior to publicly distributing advertisements.

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