Jefferson City, Mo. — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s Securities Division issued a consent order with Joseph Alan Likens, who engaged in dishonest and unethical practices by selling unapproved investments from July 2010 through April 2015 while working for three different firms.

During that time, Likens was a registered broker-dealer agent and/or investment adviser representative with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., Cornerstone Wealth Management LLC and LPL Financial LLC. He was discharged from LPL for participating in private securities transactions.

Between July 2010 and April 2015, Likens offered and sold investments in Chapiter LLC to 23 Missouri residents in the St. Louis area. Of these investors, 21 were more than 60 years old at the time of their initial investment. Several of the investors also had securities and/or brokerage accounts at Merrill or LPL with Likens as their registered broker-dealer agent and/or investment adviser representative. All investors either wrote a personal check or withdrew monies from their Merrill brokerage account in order to invest in Chapiter. The investments were not approved offerings and/or securities of Merrill or LPL. Likens failed to disclose the private securities transactions or the outside business activity to Merrill or LPL.

During the course of the division’s investigation, Merrill paid more than $1.7 million to the 23 Missouri investors affected by Likens’s activities or who invested in Chapiter through Likens.

“Even though you are investing through a registered person who works at a legitimate firm, it is a good idea to still check into the securities they are offering,” Securities Commissioner David M. Minnick said. “You should get a confirmation document from the firm for each investment you make. If someone offers you outside investments when they are registered through a firm, you should do your own due diligence.”

Likens consented to findings by the commissioner and has been barred from registering as a broker-dealer, investment adviser, broker-dealer agent or investment adviser representative in the state of Missouri. In addition, Likens agreed to make payments to the Investor Education and Protection Fund.

Ashcroft urges all investors to know the risks. If you have any questions about an investment opportunity or wish to check the background and registration status of a financial adviser, please call the toll-free investor protection hotline at 800-721-7996, or go online to to file a complaint.