The Securities and Exchange Commission has barred a Louisville, Ky.-based investment advisor from the securities industry after he was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for fleecing multiple investors out of over $4 million.
According to the commission’s settlement offer from April 16, Christopher Lee Hibbard would be barred “from association” with any broker, dealer, investment advisor, and would also be disallowed by acting as a promoter, finder, consultant or anyone who works with brokers for the purposes of issuing or trading any penny stock.
Hibbard was sentenced in Kentucky federal court in December of last year. He was initially indicted in 2018 with one count of investment fraud and nine counts of wire fraud, and pleaded guilty in June of last year. At the time of the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman praised the work of prosecutors and the FBI in helping to restore the “lost trust” of investors.
“Trust was the victim in this case; trust in the defendant who portrayed himself as a family member and stole millions, in our financial system, and in other human beings,” Coleman said.
Hibbard worked at Morgan Keegan & Company between 2004 to 2010, then moved to Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith until he was fired in 2018, according to his FINRA BrokerCheck profile. Between 2007 and 2008, Hibbard made dozens of wire transfers out of the brokerage account of a Louisville-based client totaling more than $1.2 million, according to the DOJ. Hibbard told federal investigators that he’d used much of the funds for his own personal expenses, and after draining most of the client’s funds from his account, he would falsify brokerage statements indicating that the client had as much as $4 million in his account.
Additionally, between January 2011 and December 2017, Hibbard initiated more than 300 unauthorized ACH transfers from client accounts he managed to an American Express account he controlled. Hibbard did this without informing or getting permission or authorization from account holders, and in total, he embezzled more than $3 million out of their accounts. He also used those funds for his own personal expenses.
“In order to effectuate his scheme to defraud, the Defendant engaged in unauthorized trading and liquidation of clients’ investments, made unauthorized withdrawals from client annuity accounts, and committed acts of forgery,” the 2020 plea agreement read.
FINRA had already permanently suspended Hibbard from associating with any FINRA member in May 2018. Additionally, Hibbard will also have three years of supervised release following his jail sentence.