Affinity FCU Broker Wins $925,000 Arbitration Award in Whistleblower Case
BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – A former broker for Affinity FCU’s Affinity Investment Services LLC, who claimed she was fired after complaining about alleged wrongdoing in the investment CUSO, was awarded a $925,000 judgment by the broker-dealer regulatory agency, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA.
Broker Michelle Ford, an Australian citizen, also alleged that Affinity officials conspired to defeat her attempts to obtain a green card, forcing her to leave the country. Ford complained to CUSO management in 2005 and 2006 about what she thought were prohibited transactions in Affinity's 401(k) plan and improper sales of annuities. The CUSO then took a number of steps against her in retaliation and finally fired her in February 2007, according to the complaint.
In one instance, in December 2006, Affinity was notified that Ford's request for permanent resident, or “green card” status, was about to be granted, he said. But the company decided not to respond to questions from the Labor Department that would have sped up the process. As a result, Ford had to return to Australia.
She subsequently returned to the U.S., and now works as a registered representative with Questar Capital Corp.
The FINRA arbitration panel awarded Ford $825,000 in compensatory damages and another $100,000 as a sanction for discovery abuse by the CUSO.
The arbitration panel also ordered that negative information on Ford's U-5 termination form be removed. Affinity had claimed that Ms. Ford was terminated while under internal review for wrongdoing.
A lawyer for the CUSO did not return a phone call seeking comment.