On December 16, 2019, FINRA released the AWC in Matter No. 2018060843801 (In re Molteni) [click here to read the AWC]. At first blush, the AWC seems to concern a garden variety violation in which the FA failed to amend his Form U4 to disclose two federal tax liens. This doesn’t seem to be the violation of the century, right? Even FINRA’s Sanction Guidelines suggest a regulatory slap on the wrist of a modest fine and 10 day suspension.
So here is where things get interesting. FINRA more or less sanctioned Molteni in accordance with the Sanction Guidelines. They hit him with a $5,000 fine and a 3 month suspension. However, FINRA also found that he “willfully” failed to disclose the federal tax liens. In the world of FINRA regulation, the word “willful” carries an awful lot of weight.
What does it mean to act “willfully”?