Finra suspends, fines broker for posting fake sex ads

Paul Betenbaugh admitted to impersonating a former Edward Jones colleague on Craigslist to disparage the competitor

Jan 24, 2018 @ 1:53 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. is suspending and fining Paul Betenbaugh, a former registered representative with Edward Jones, for impersonating a competing adviser and using that adviser's information to create explicit internet ads seeking sexual encounters with men.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Mr. Betenbaugh posted three fake gay-sex ads on Craiglist in September and October 2015, using the physical description and business phone number of Dalas Gundersen, a former Edward Jones adviser in Willows, Calif., to "harass, intimidate and defame" him.

The ads featured graphic language to describe the desired sex acts, and Mr. Gundersen said his phone was inundated with unwanted calls and text messages, some including pictures of male genitalia. One caller was arrested for a violent crime shortly after contacting Mr. Gunderson.

"To build his business, Gundersen had to answer every call he received and accept every request for a meeting, not knowing if those calls and meetings would manifest into sexual assaults," a lawsuit filed in Glenn County Superior Court states.

Mr. Betenbaugh admitted in a sworn declaration in 2016 that he placed two of the three ads. Another defendant, Lisa Rodriguez, denies playing any part.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the story began in December 2014, when Mr. Gunderson was fired from Edward Jones for violating company policy around confirming trades with clients who gave instructions to a nonregistered branch office administrator. Edward Jones replaced him with Ms. Rodriguez, who was recruited and mentored by Mr. Betenbaugh.

Mr. Gunderson set up his own firm half a mile away, but was not allowed to contact his former clients because of a pre-employment noncompete agreement with Edward Jones. Mr. Gunderson alleges in his lawsuit that Ms. Rodriguez and Mr. Betenbaugh placed a newspaper ad taunting Mr. Gunderson with the headline, "Is Your Broker Giving You the Cold Shoulder?"

Some clients left to join Mr. Gundersen's new firm, and one filed a complaint letter with Edward Jones regarding Ms. Rodriguez. Ms. Rodriguez believed the complaint was actually written by Mr. Gundersen, and Mr. Betenbaugh decided to retaliate on behalf of his friend.

"Because of my anger at what happened to Lisa, and without Lisa's knowledge, I took actions which were not honorable, and determined to place a post on ... Craigslist which would annoy Mr. Gundersen," Mr. Betenbaugh said in his declaration.

The lawsuit also names Ms. Rodriguez and Edward Jones as defendants; both parties deny any wrongdoing.

Mr. Betenbaugh was terminated by Edward Jones in February 2016 and launched a new financial advice firm a month later with Securities America. He was terminated by Securities America in September 2017.

Although Mr. Betenbaugh is not currently associated with a member firm, Finra said it still has jurisdiction over him. Mr. Betenbaugh has been suspended for three months and fined $7,500 for violating Finra Rule 2010, which requires advisers to "observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade" in their business conduct.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Mr. Gundersen is still trying to rebuild his business, but estimates he only manages 20% of the $150 million he previously managed.

His lawsuit with Edward Jones and Ms. Rodriguez is ongoing.

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