Morgan Stanley agreed to pay a $3.6 million fine after regulators determined it failed to detect or prevent the misappropriation of client funds, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday.
As part of the agreement, Morgan Stanley did not admit or deny any wrongdoing.
According to the SEC filing, Morgan Stanley allowed employees to wire as much as $100,000 from a client’s brokerage account to a third-party account as long as an internal form indicated that the client requested the transfer. While the firm had policies in place requiring some transfers be reviewed, the SEC ruled that these policies were insufficient to protect investors.
The settlement follows allegations levied against Morgan Stanley financial advisor Barry Connell in February 2017 for misappropriating or misusing $7 million from client accounts. The criminal charges against him are still pending in federal court.
“Investment advisers must view the safeguarding of client assets from misappropriation or misuse by their personnel as a critical aspect of investor protection,” Sanjay Wadhwa, senior associate director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, said in a statement. “Today’s order finds that Morgan Stanley fell short of its obligations in this regard.”