February 12, 2021

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has banned a former Wells Fargo bank broker from refusing to cooperate with its investigation into whether it improperly sought “business support” from the Small Business Administration, according to a settlement letter finalized Wednesday .

The regulator has opened its investigation into Orlando, Florida representative Valerie Idarraga Ceballos after she was fired in November 2020 for asking for SBA relief “when [she] admitted that she did not have a preexisting formal business as required, ”according to the U5 notice from Finra and Wells posted on her BrokerCheck profile.

The notice does not say whether Ceballos specifically requested the SBA’s paycheck protection program or its economic disaster loan for coronavirus damage, or whether it ultimately received funds.

Ceballos could not be reached for comment, and her lawyer, Erika Binnix of AdvisorLaw in Westminster, Colorado, did not respond to a request for comment. She settled the charges without admitting or denying the findings.

Wells Fargo laid off more than 100 employees in the fall, saying they were personally seeking to defraud the government’s Covid-19 virus relief program, according to a report in “NPR” in October.

A memo from the company said it had identified employees who had made false claims by requesting relief funds through the SBA’s Economic Disaster Loan program and that employee actions were under review. outside of their professional responsibilities, according to the report.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

Ceballos first registered as a broker with Wells Fargo in 2018 and had also worked as a personal banker with Wells Fargo Community Bank, according to a August 2017 Marketing Article on the “shift from sales to a culture of customer experience”. The article highlighted changes to the company’s processes since its massive fake accounts scandal was exposed in 2016.

“[W]We can enter information, listen and personalize much more easily depending on where the conversation is taking us, instead of worrying if we have ticked this or that box or mentioned this or that product, ”Ceballos said in the statement. ‘article.

Ceballos’ BrokerCheck record does not show any other record of customer disputes or so-called “disclosure” events. Wells noted in U5 that he found no evidence of harm to the customer.

Will end in January sent notices to brokers that he is reviewing some registered representatives who have taken funds from the Coronavirus Relief Assistance Program. The regulator is investigating whether recipients have violated federal securities laws or Finra’s rules, particularly its ban on undisclosed outside business activities.

Wells wasn’t the only major bank to find evidence of SBA loan abuse. JPMorgan Chase also said it laid off several employees after discovering that more than 500 had applied for loans from the taxpayer-backed program, according to a September report. report.

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