Merrill Discharges Novice Chicago Broker Over Do-Not-Call Violations
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has discharged a Chicago advisor who had been with the firm for three years, based on allegations that he engaged in “conduct inconsistent with Firm standards related to the Firm’s Do Not Call list,” according to his BrokerCheck record.
The discharged advisor, Joseph G. Rossi, is not registered with Finra to represent another firm, according to BrokerCheck. He declined to comment immediately for this story.
The termination appears to show Merrill is closely monitoring for ongoing do-not-call violations since initial problems came to light in the training program in July of last year.
A spokesperson for the wirehouse declined to comment.
Merrill last year halted all telemarketing in what was then its 43-month Financial Advisor Development training program due to its discovery of numerous do-not-call violations by neophyte brokers. Merrill managers and internal sources said the firm conducted a look-back at all outgoing trainee calls in conjunction with consultants at Ernst & Young Global Limited but that the formal review had concluded.
In late May, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch executives unveiled plans to revamp the company’s broker training program by slashing in half its length to 18 months and hiring the “vast majority” of broker candidates from parent Bank of America Consumer Bank, specifically its army of around 3,000 salaried Financial Solutions Advisors.
The revisions to the Financial Advisor Development Program curriculum came as Merrill president Andy Sieg also made permanent the brokerage’s ban on trainees’ cold calling and said the restriction would extend to its experienced advisor force.
“As a firm and an industry, we’ve moved well beyond cold calling,” Sieg told reporters. “Cold calling is a very inefficient way to build a practice today.”
In January this year, Merrill discharged two advisors, one based in Austin, Texas, the other in New York City, also for “conduct inconsistent with the Firm’s standards related to the Firm’s Do Not Call list,” according to their BrokerCheck records.
In September 2019, Merrill discharged two brokers in Arizona, and another in Dallas left the firm—all amid allegations of improperly soliciting prospects and failing to cooperate with a firm review.
Finra monitors firms’ prospecting through its Rule 3230, which is “substantially similar” to Federal Trade Commission telemarketing sales rules and prohibits brokers from calling any person on internal or national do-not-call lists. It also requires members to have written policies and procedures as well as training of personnel regarding telemarketing and using do-not-call lists.