Skip to main content

Broker who took client funds for 17 years is barred


“A broker admitting that he has been ripping off clients for 17 years is beyond troubling,” said one attorney.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. on Monday barred a broker who had been “misappropriating” – meaning taking – client funds for 17 years and was fired from his firm, Western International Securities Inc., just last month.

The broker, Jeffrey Higgins, was based in Baker City, Ore., and had 22 years of experience in the retail securities industry, first at Financial West Group and then, starting at 2017, at Western International Securities, according to his BrokerCheck profile.

Financial West Group sold its advisors and assets to Western International Securities in 2017 and then shut down.

According to the Finra settlement with Higgins, it’s not clear how much money he diverted from clients for his own use since 2007. And Higgins was not barred from the industry for his misuse of client funds; instead, Finra barred him for not cooperating in its investigation. Higgins did not produce documents or records that Finra was seeking, and he also did not appear to testify in the matter, according to Finra.

Higgins agreed to be barred from the securities industry without admitting to or denying Finra’s findings. He could not be reached Tuesday to comment.

“It’s shocking that the broker’s firm wouldn’t have policies and procedures in place to catch this kind of behavior,” said Ryan Bakhtiari, a plaintiff’s attorney. “I don’t know if I’ve heard of a theft going on for that length of time.”

“A broker admitting that he has been ripping off clients for 17 years is beyond troubling,” said Brandon Reif, an industry attorney. “But more troubling is that the securities firms that have the duty to supervise his activities had not uncovered his dishonesty for 17 years.”

“The remote supervision of advisors is a serious cause for concern and now Western must face the music for what is likely lackadaisical supervision of a bad broker,” Reif added.

Western International Securities “discharged” – or fired – Higgins in June 27, according to Finra.

That’s when he told the firm that he had been “misdirecting client investments and funds and misappropriating client investments and funds to his own use, starting in approximately 2007 at his prior broker-dealer firm, and those activities had been continued through to the current date,” according to Finra.

According to his BrokerCheck profile, Higgins has one customer dispute on his work record, which involved alleged unsuitable recommendations and other claims stemming from purchases of corporate debt. The client was seeking damages of $210,000 but the matter was settled earlier this year for $94,000.

Western International Securities is currently part of the Atria Wealth Solutions Inc. network of broker-dealers that LPL Financial Holdings Inc. said it was buying this winter. When one broker-dealer buys another, it does its due diligence checks on the financial advisors it is acquiring and, at times, work issues like those in Finra’s settlement with Higgins come to light.