Donnie Eugene Ingram (CRD #1416971, Winter Haven, Florida)

September 27, 2022 – Donnie Eugene Ingram (CRD #1416971) was named as a respondent in a FINRA complaint alleging that Ingram lacked a reasonable basis to recommend UITs and alternative investments. The complaint alleges that Ingram recommended that his customers purchase standard version units that caused those same customers to incur transactional sales charges. There were fee-based units of the same UIT available to customers that would have avoided most of these transactional sales charges.

Ingram would have been aware of the costs and expenses, as well as his ability to purchase the fee-based UITs for his customers. Despite the understanding that his customers would have benefitted from purchasing the fee-based UITs by paying a lower cost for the same security, Donnie Eugene Ingram nonetheless allegedly recommended and purchased the standard version UITs in his customers’ accounts for his own financial benefit and to the detriment of his customers.

He also recommended some of his customers to purchase alternative investments through the firm, thereby incurring selling commissions that could have been otherwise avoided, had Donnie Eugene Ingram instead recommended they purchase the same alternative investments for less. These alternative investments were available as a result of the customers’ investment advisory agreement through Ingram’s investment advisory firm.

Ingram would have also been allegedly aware of the costs and expenses resulting from his ability to enter into selling agreements with alternative investment issuers on behalf of Ingram’s investment advisory firm that would have allowed his customers to avoid paying selling commissions. Despite understanding that his customers would have benefitted from purchasing the lower-cost alternative investments through his own advisory firm, Donnie Eugene Ingram nonetheless recommended and purchased alternative investments through his firm for his own financial benefit and detriment to his customers.

He had no reasonable basis to recommend to his customers that they purchase the more expensive standard version UITs nor to purchase alternative investments through the firm when Ingram knew that these same customers could have purchased the investments for less and received the same benefits.

FINRA’s complaint also alleges that Donnie Eugene Ingram did not act with commercial honor by observing just and equitable principles of trade. The complaint further alleges that Ingram’s firm failed to reasonably supervise his recommendations of UITs and alternative investments. In violation of the firm’s supervisory procedures, a supervisor at the firm failed to conduct any suitability review to determine if his recommendations of standard version UITs were, in fact, suitable, especially in light of the fact that identical, lower-cost fee-based UITs were available.

Similarly, Ingram’s supervisor did not review whether his recommendations to purchase alternative investments through the firm were suitable where investment advisory customers were able to purchase those same investments without a commission. Supervisory failure allegedly continued into the period where the supervisor was responsible for implementing Ingram’s heightened supervision program. Not only did the firm fail to ensure whether the supervisor was conducting a suitability review of Donnie Eugene Ingram’s recommendations, but its trading principal did not perform any review to determine if Ingram’s recommendation of UITs was suitable as required by the firm’s WSPs.

The firm also failed to ensure that the regional compliance supervisor’s review of Ingram’s alternative investment recommendations included a consideration of the costs that customers incurred in purchasing alternative investments through the firm when identical and lower cost alternatives of the same securities were available. (FINRA Case #2018057298701)