Former Purshe Kaplan Sterling Broker Tonya Nicole Smoake Suspended by FINRA – New York, NY

FINRA has suspended former Purshe Kaplan Sterling broker Tonya Nicole Smoake from the securities industry for 12 months for participating in private securities transactions without her firm’s knowledge or approval.

Smoake was also fined $5,000. She is no longer associated with a FINRA member but remains subject to FINRA’s jurisdiction.

If you have lost money with Tonya Nicole Smoake, or Purshe Kaplan Sterling, contact New York securities arbitration lawyers Iorio Altamirano LLP for a free and confidential evaluation of your account.

FINRA Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (“AWC”)

Tonya Nicole Smoake and FINRA entered into a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (“AWC”) on March 16, 2021, over the following findings:

  • Between April 2017 and January 2019, without Purshe Kaplan Sterling’s knowledge or approval, Smoake participated in private securities transactions involving approximately $1.6 million in total sales in a registered investment advisor (the RIA).
  • At the time of these offerings, Smoake was the chief operations officer of the RIA. She was involved in the RIA and the offerings by the RIA’s chief executive officer. To facilitate the investments, Smoake distributed offering documents to the investors, gathered signed documents from investors, answered investor questions, and coordinated investor payments. Smoake did not receive any commissions from the sale of the securities, and none of the investors were firm customers.
  • In March 2017, Smoake disclosed her role at the RIA to Purshe Kaplan Sterling. However, she did not provide the firm with prior written notice of her participation in the securities offerings.
  • Additionally, in November 2017 and November 2018, Smoake inaccurately certified on the firm’s annual compliance questionnaires that she was not involved in any private securities transaction that had not been previously disclosed to the firm. 

Tonya Nicole Smoake (CRD#: 4985049)

Smoake has 13 years of experience in the securities industry and has been registered with three firms:

  • Bhargava Capital, Franklin Lakes, NJ (May 16, 2019 – September 9, 2020);
  • Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments, New York, NY (March 23, 2017 – May 14, 2019); and
  • Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, New York, NY (June 27, 2007 – March 21, 2017).

Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments

Purshe Kaplan Sterling is a full-service broker-dealer and financial services firm. The firm has more than 1,200 registered representatives and 530 offices. It became a FINRA member in April 1994 and is headquartered in Albany, NY.

FINRA has sanctioned the firm in the past.

  • On April 8, 2016, the firm was censured and fined $200,000. The FINRA AWC on the matter indicated that from at least January 1, 2011, through January 1, 2016, the firm violated FINRA Rules by failing to adequately evaluate its registered representatives’ outside business activities to determine whether the outside activities involved activities such as private securities transactions.
  • On February 21, 2017, the firm was censured, ordered to pay a $750,000 fine, and ordered to pay restitution of $3,373,303 plus interest to the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan for failing to supervise a broker who made the alternative investment sales between 2011 and 2015. Specifically, the FINRA Enforcement proceeding involved a Purshe Kaplan Sterling representative who fraudulently induced the tribe to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in non-traded real estate investment trusts (“REITs”) and business development companies (“BDCs”), without revealing he and his firm received commissions on the sales (usually seven percent) or the availability of certain volume discounts. The firm’s supervisory failures led it to fail to detect and prevent its registered representative’s fraud. In May 2019, the firm paid $9.5 million to settle an arbitration claim brought by the tribe.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, on February 3, 2020, the firm paid $1.5 million to settle an arbitration with the pension plan of the St. Jude Heritage Medical Group in California. St. Jude had alleged, among other things, supervisory failures.

How to Recover Losses or Obtain a Free Consultation

If you have lost money with Tonya Nicole Smoake, or Purshe Kaplan Sterling, contact New York securities arbitration lawyer Jorge Altamirano of Iorio Altamirano LLP at or toll-free at (855) 430-4010 for a free and confidential evaluation of your account.

Iorio Altamirano LLP is a securities arbitration law firm based in New York, NY. We pursue FINRA arbitration claims nationwide on behalf of investors to recover financial losses arising out of wrongful conduct by financial advisors and brokerage firms.

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