The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has permanently banned two representatives from the securities industry, Brandon Otero of New Jersey and Harris Kauser of New York, for allegedly cheating on online qualifying exams.
The enforcement action is FINRA’s first crackdown on remote exam cheating, the regulator said in a statement announcing the action today.
“Test cheaters are on notice: Regardless of the testing environment, FINRA remains vigilant in our efforts to detect cheating, and will vigorously pursue disciplinary action, including permanent bars, against anyone who cheats on qualifying exams,” warned FINRA’s Executive Vice Jessica Hopper. President and Chief of Enforcement.
The two representatives were caught accessing internet forums to seek answers while taking the online FINRA exams, in violation of rules set by FINRA and other securities regulators. Online exams use computers equipped with cameras and are remotely proctored to test service personnel, who can track reps’ performance.
“FINRA uses a variety of tools and processes to monitor test-taking misconduct,” said spokesman Ray Pellecchia. Financial advisor magazine.
This is FINRA’s first action against candidates for online cheating, but the organization has suspended or banned 12 individuals since January 2021 for cheating in individual qualifying exams or possessing unauthorized material during the individual test.
In settling these matters, Otero and Kauser agreed and consented to the admission of FINRA’s findings without admitting or denying guilt.
Otero contacted Equitable Advisors LLC in January 2021 and later registered with the firm as a general securities representative in March 2021, according to his broker check report.
He contacted Equitable Advisors when he accessed the Internet for help while taking the exam five times—once for the online FINRA exam for Series 7 and four times for the two exams given by the North American Securities Administrators Association Series 63 and Series. 66 licenses as per letter of acceptance, waiver and consent submitted by him.
According to the Form U5 Equitable filed on February 24, 2022, Otero was allowed to resign on February 18, 2022, “after accepting a request from FINRA and admitting that he violated ethical standards during a FINRA examination.”