The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced that it has barred two individuals from the securities industry for cheating during their online qualification examinations, InvestmentNews reports.
The bars imposed on Brandon Autiero of New Jersey and Harris Kausar of New York mark FINRA’s first enforcement actions in connection with cheating on remote exams. The authority found that the two sought assistance from public internet forums during their tests, a violation of FINRA’s rules of conduct.
“Test cheaters are on notice: regardless of the testing environment, FINRA remains vigilant in our efforts to detect cheating and will vigorously pursue disciplinary action – including permanent bars – against any individual who cheats on qualification examinations,” said Jessica Hopper, Executive Vice President and Head of FINRA’s Department of Enforcement.
Autiero and Kausar did not admit or deny FINRA’s findings, but accepted and consented to the actions in order to settle the case. Autiero resigned his position as a general securities representative with Equitable Advisors in February 2022 once FINRA’s investigation began. Kausar was terminated by Barclays that same month after he did not pass the qualification exam in the required time frame.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, candidates to become registered have been allowed to take qualifying exams through an online testing service as well as an in person. Testing service staff monitor the tests remotely through the use of camera-equipped computers.
The exams cover a wide range of topics involving securities markets, regulation and industry practices. They are administered by FINRA for securities professionals to become registered.
Since January 2021, FINRA has suspended or barred 12 individuals for cheating or possessing unauthorized materials while taking the exams in person.
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