Oakbridge Stockbroker Barred For Lying About Fraudulent Church Bonds

Steven Ellsworth Larson of Saint Louis Missouri a stockbroker formerly employed by Oakbridge Financial Services has been issued a Decision by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) National Adjudicatory Council in which he has been barred from associating with any FINRA member in any capacity supported by findings that he defrauded investors. Department of Enforcement v. Steven E. Larson Decision No. 2014039174202 (Sept. 21, 2020).

Prior to the NAC Decision, on June 14, 2018, Larson was issued a Decision by FINRA Extended Hearing Panel where he was fined $37,000.00 and suspended by the regulator based upon findings that he failed to timely and completely comply with FINRA’s requests for information and that he falsified information provided to FINRA personnel all during the course of its investigation into his conduct.

The Hearing Panel determined that customers were misled by Larson in regard to church bonds which were debt instruments issued by religious organizations for development of property. Misrepresentations and omissions had been made to those customers with regard to the safety and the values of those bonds. FINRA Department of Enforcement alleged that Larson did this to confuse investors about their holdings and to prevent them from selling their accounts. Most of those bonds were in default, forebearance, bankruptcy or restructuring. The church bonds were secured by mortgages but the issuers were behind on mortgage payments.

Larson also effected cross trades of church bonds between some of his customers. The stockbroker advised customers to buy these bonds at inflated values. The Hearing Panel determined that Larson’s actions were reckless but not fraudulent which is why he was initially suspended rather than barred at that time. National Adjudicatory Council reviewed the Hearing Officer’s Decision. It determined that Larson defrauded customers. NAC also confirmed that Larson had provided false and backdated records to FINRA personnel and that he obstructed the regulator’s investigation.

Larson has also been permanently barred as a stockbroker in the State of Missouri as of May 11, 2018 according to a Consent Order containing findings of Larson’s fraudulent actions. Case No. AP-16-11. According to the regulator, Larson failed to comply with Missouri Securities Act and he engaged in deceptive and fraudulent actions through his creation of church bond market values and corresponding statements while he was associated with Oakbridge Financial Services.

Larson was discharged by Oakbridge Financial Services based on the enforcement actions that were brought against him by FINRA and the State of Missouri.