The head of the state Division of Securities is resigning, following allegations of mismanagement and misuse of authority and a continuing state audit.
Division director Wayne Klein said Monday that he has submitted his resignation to his state Commerce Department chief Francine Giani. He plans to step down at the end of this month.
Klein's decision come amid controversy surrounding a case his agency investigated involving four employees with First Western Advisors Inc., a stock brokerage and investment firm.
Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, was concerned about the handling of the First Western case and requested the audit late last year. The Legislative Auditor General's Office began the audit in early November and plans to complete its work by the end of the legislative session.
"The division does important work," Giani said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, sometimes they do investigate people that are known by people that can call for audits."
Klein said Tuesday that his resignation would take pressure off the division so that its important work can go forward without him being a lightning rod for criticism.
The controversy traces back to last March, when the Utah Division of Securities alleged that First Western Advisors, along with two current and two former brokers, were part of securities fraud involving nine Utahns who invested more than $20.6 million.
The division had filed a petition to revoke and bar licenses and impose fines against First Western and brokers Gary W. Teran, Carl A. Page, David A. Russon and Brian G. Kasteler. Teran is the company's president, and Russon and Kasteler are former First Western brokers.
Specifically, the division said the agents invested in Class B shares, which have higher costs and higher commissions for the agents than Class A shares of the same fund. However, some clients thought they owned Class A shares based upon Morningstar "Snapshot" reports that the agents sent, reflecting mutual fund performance for Class A shares, the division said.
The division also said that the nine investors testified to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, but the agents tried to contradict their statements by having them sign "mutual-fund disclosure statements" and "declarations" suggesting the investors were always aware of the brokers' actions.
The filing also charged First Western with failing to maintain accurate books and records and failing to supervise the activities of the four brokers. The division accused the firm of violating the Utah Securities Act, saying First Western failed to disclose material facts to clients, recommended unsuitable investments, gave false account information to clients and attempted to change client testimony to the SEC.
The division later dismissed the fraud claims after the men signed settlement agreements with orders to comply with state requirements of the Utah Uniform Securities Act. The division also issued news releases expressing regret for any potential harm their allegations may have caused to First Western's business.
Giani and Klein said the division never claimed First Western bilked clients out of money, but the division did raise questions about the firm's practices and fee structures, which were eventually addressed and resolved between the division and the company in the settlement agreements.
In the consent order, the company also agreed to change its policies in exchange for the agency dismissing fraud charges.
Klein said the division issued the apology because of the potential damage to the company's reputation caused by media reports stating First Western had de-frauded clients, which he said the division never claimed.
- Doug Robinson: Utah man's new running shoe...
- In faith communities, fraudsters prey on trust
- Efforts to stop excavation at Point of the...
- Got weeds? Hire a goat
- Want a better return on your college...
- Millennials relying on prepaid cards and...
- Animal rights group threatens Utah fur farms...
- Private school in Texas gives students...
- Want a better return on your college... 17
- Doug Robinson: Utah man's new running... 16
- In faith communities, fraudsters prey... 10
- Groups hold public rally to 'Stop the... 7
- Efforts to stop excavation at Point of... 6
- Got weeds? Hire a goat 2
- Private school in Texas gives students... 2
- Highly efficient 'passive homes' gain... 1