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Will I be banned from working in finance after federal fraud charges?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 06:01 pm


Will I be banned from working in finance after federal fraud charges?

Getting charged with federal fraud can definitely complicate things if you want to work in finance. The financial industry is highly regulated, and employers will be wary of hiring someone with a fraud conviction. But an outright ban from the industry is less common than you might think.

Here’s an overview of how federal fraud charges could impact your finance career, along with some tips for moving forward.

Potential penalties beyond jail time

So you got charged with federal fraud. That sucks. Let’s assume you got convicted too. The most obvious penalty is potential jail time, which could be up to 20 years for felony fraud. But other common penalties include:

  • Fines – Fraud fines can reach into the millions.
  • Restitution – Repaying all money obtained illegally.
  • Probation – Up to 5 years of supervised release after jail.
  • Forfeiture – Giving up property connected with the crime.

All those hurt, but here’s the kicker: Under federal law, fraud can also lead to a bar from working in the financial industry by regulatory agencies like the SEC. So that career you worked so hard for could be over, just like that. Let’s discuss how bars work and whether your career is definitely over.

How bars from the industry work

Several agencies like the SEC and CFTC can ban you from finance for fraud under Section 15(b)(6) and other laws. This is known as a “statutory disqualification.” Here’s a quick rundown of how bars work:

  • Bars can be temporary or permanent. It’s case-by-case.
  • They prevent you from being licensed or registered in roles like broker-dealer, investment adviser, etc.
  • You have the right to a hearing to appeal the bar.
  • Even if barred, you can request permission to work in finance again after a period of time.

So in short, the SEC won’t necessarily ban you permanently on the first offense. But any bar will put your career on hold for a while.

How likely am I to be banned from finance?

Here’s the good news: An automatic lifetime ban from finance is pretty rare, even for felony fraud charges. According to this analysis, only 28% of SEC fraud cases from 2017-2019 resulted in industry bars. So there’s a decent chance you’ll avoid a bar, especially if it’s a first offense.

That said, the SEC has banned more people in recent years. From 2013-2015, only 14% of cases led to bars. So expect increased scrutiny of your case.

Factors that influence bars

If the SEC does pursue a bar against you, here are some factors that may influence their decision:

  • How long the fraud occurred and how much money was involved – large, long-running schemes are big red flags.
  • Your role and level of responsibility – greater responsibility means greater scrutiny.
  • Past disciplinary history – repeat offenders are more likely to be barred.
  • Cooperation with authorities – cooperating helps your case.
  • Your age and experience level – youth and inexperience may mitigate the offense.

So if it was a short, low-level scheme you immediately reported, your odds are better. But expect extra scrutiny for higher-level, long-running schemes involving large sums of money.

What if I’m barred? Can I ever work in finance again?

Let’s say despite your best efforts, you do get slapped with a bar. Is your career over for good? Not necessarily. You can request permission to work in finance again in a few ways:

  • Apply for consent – After a certain period of time (often 1 year), you can apply for the SEC’s consent to work in finance again. This requires showing you’ve rehabilitated yourself and deserve another chance. The SEC considers factors like your compliance with the order, new training completed, and your overall trustworthiness. If you convince them, they may grant consent for you to work in certain roles again.
  • Request to vacate the bar – Alternatively, you can request the bar be vacated altogether. This requires convincing the SEC the order was excessive or unwarranted. It’s a high bar, but possible in some cases.
  • Apply for a waiver – For certain finance roles, you may be able to apply for a waiver of the disqualification based on mitigating factors. This can allow you to take specific roles despite the bar.

So in summary, a bar doesn’t have to be career-ending. But it does mean an uphill battle to work in finance again. Expect to put in a lot of work rehabilitating yourself before regulators will trust you again.

Should I just switch careers instead?

Given all the barriers, it’s reasonable to ask whether it’s better to just leave finance behind. An outright career change certainly avoids many headaches. But you’ll need to weigh several factors:

  • Your passion – Do you truly love the work, or was it just a job?
  • Your experience level – Starting over gets harder later in life.
  • Industry demand – Some specialties are hard to replace.
  • Opportunity cost – Will the time spent fighting to stay in finance pay off?

For older industry veterans with deep expertise, starting fresh may not make sense. But for younger folks just starting out, or those lukewarm about finance, a change may be just what you need.

What other careers could I consider?

If you do decide it’s time to leave finance, plenty of options exist. Look for roles that leverage your skills in areas like:

  • Data analytics – analysis, statistics, modeling
  • Accounting – financial reporting, analysis, auditing
  • Consulting – research, strategy, project management
  • Law – contracts, compliance, regulation
  • Tech – software, database management, programming

Do an honest self-assessment of your strengths. Then make a plan to transition them to a related field. It may require going back to school or starting at a lower level. But you can put your skills to work in many industries with the right strategy.

Key takeaways

Here are a few final thoughts to wrap up:

  • A lifetime finance ban is possible but unlikely for first-time offenses.
  • Bars can often be appealed or reversed later on.
  • Major fraud will mean an uphill battle to stay in finance.
  • With effort, many skills do translate to other careers.
  • Have hope – your career isn’t necessarily over.

Stay positive, be smart, and take it one step at a time. With patience and perseverance, you can get through this and still have a fulfilling career, wherever that takes you.

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