Baird Hires California Broker Wells Dismissed over Personal Cash Withdrawals
Less than two months after being forced out of Wells Fargo Advisors for allegedly suspicious cash withdrawals from his personal bank accounts, a ranked California broker has found a new home with regional firm Robert W. Baird & Co.
His ability to land quickly despite allegations that he made six cash withdrawals in six days to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements should hearten advisors with strong practices who can convince new firms of their innocence, some lawyers said. Heng was managing $350 million in client assets at a Wells bank branch in Roseville, near Sacramento, according to his #101 ranking on Forbes’ 2020 list of best-in-state advisors in California.
Heng, who began his brokerage career with Merrill Lynch in 1992, disputed Wells’ discharge determination, according to a summary of the bank’s U5 discharge form on his BrokerCheck record. The alleged illegal activities were not securities- or client-related, Wells reported.
Anti-money-laundering laws and regulations require banks to file currency transaction reports for any cash withdrawals exceeding $10,000, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority mandates that member firms have policies and procedures aimed at complying with the Bank Secrecy Act.
Heng’s successful advisory practice, however, was apparently enough to convince Baird that Wells overreacted to whatever motivated the withdrawals, said James D. Sallah, a securities lawyer in Boca Raton, Florida.
“They’re very sensitive with all the bad press they have gotten,” said Sallah, referring to the regulatory, political and consumer fallout Wells Fargo & Co. has suffered since disclosing its fake bank account scandal almost four years ago. “Venture to say it’s a lot easier for a broker with a non-sales practice violation to get re-hired by another broker-dealer when they have a substantial amount of assets under management.”
Sallah does not represent Heng and was not familiar with details of his dismissal or hire.
Heng did not return a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for Baird.Baird has around 1,300 financial advisors, and last year acquired Kentucky regional firm Hilliard Lyons.