News Releases

February 22, 2018

Vermont to Receive $140,000 from Merrill Lynch and Agent for Unauthorized Actions

Customer Spurs Investigation with Complaint, Receives Full Restitution

The State of Vermont will receive $140,000 from Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) and Lawrence K. Barber as a result of a Department of Financial Regulation investigation. Commissioner Michael S. Pieciak announced today that Merrill Lynch and Barber will pay a combined administrative penalty of $98,000 to the general fund, $30,000 to reimburse the Department for the costs of its investigation. They will also pay a combined $12,000 to the Department's investor education and training fund.

The investigation stemmed from a customer complaint seeking reimbursement from Merrill Lynch for losses incurred due to the actions of Barber, a registered broker-dealer agent and investment advisor representative in Merrill Lynch’s Burlington office.

The Department's investigation revealed that Barber made unauthorized changes to the client's account, gained inappropriate access to the client's online account, failed to follow the client's express instructions, and did not follow Merrill Lynch policies and procedures. The investigation found that Merrill Lynch failed to provide adequate supervision of Barber to prevent and respond to conduct that was contrary its own internal policies.

In addition to the $140,000 paid to the State, the client has received full restitution from Merrill Lynch for all losses related to these events.

Pieciak said he recognizes the cooperation Merrill Lynch provided during the investigation and is satisfied with their actions in making full restitution to their client.

"This department's number one priority is Vermonters' financial well-being," he said. "When someone is harmed financially, we strive to make them whole and achieve a just outcome - Merrill Lynch stepped up to the plate in this instance to do just that."

"I encourage Vermonters to use the Department as a resource and reach out if you have a question, concern, or complaint about your finances" he said. The department can be reached through its consumer hotline at (800) 964-1784 or by email at

Merrill Lynch is a Vermont-registered securities broker-dealer with an office in Burlington.

Media Contact: Stephanie Brackin, Information Management Officer, 802-828-4872

Source: Department of Financial Regulation
Last Updated at: February 22, 2018 15:22:39