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Articles Tagged with variable annuities

Phillip Andrew Johnson (CRD #501352) is a former registered broker and investment advisor whose last employer was D.H. Hill Securities, LLLP (CRD #41528) of Kingwood, TX. His previous employers include SunTrust Investment Services, Inc. (CRD #17499) of Nashville, TN, AXA Advisors, LLC (CRD #6627) and The Equitable Life Assurance Society Of The United States (CRD #4039), both of New York, New York. He has been in the industry since 1976.

Winston-Turner-Facing-Allegations-of-Variable-Annuity-Fraud-300x200Johnson is the subject of seven disclosures on his record, four of which are regulatory actions. Five of the disclosures were filed from 04/24/2015 through 06/20/2018. The first disclosure was employment separation.

Two of the disclosures in 2018 are regulatory actions from FINRA, related to the same action.

Silver Law Group and The Law Firm of David Chase are reviewing potential claims of fraudulent inducement of federal employees into purchasing high fee paying variable annuity products by LPL Financial LLC (CRD#6413) affiliated brokers Brandon Long (CRD# 5975459) , Christopher S Laws (CRD#4479529) , Johnathan Dax Cooke (CRD#5365691) and Danny Scott Hood (CRD#3236852).

Variable annuities (“VAs”) are highly-complex financial products.  According to FINRA, a good way to think of a VA is as a cross between an insurance product and an investment product.

Like other annuities, a VA is a contract between the investor and an insurance company.  The investor pays the insurer a single payment or a series of payments called premiums.  In exchange for those premiums, the insurer promises to make periodic payments to you either immediately or at some point in the future.

My Financial Advisor is Giving Me the Runaround on My Investments, What Are My Rights? on silverlaw.comSilver Law Group is investigating former Pennsylvania-based Metlife Securities Inc. (CRD# 14251), also known as MSI Financial Services, Inc., broker Brian P. Murphy (CRD# 2953503) over allegations that he conducted outside business activities without the permission of his firm.

According to Murphy’s FINRA BrokerCheck report, Signator Investors, Inc. (CRD# 468) terminated Murphy after Murphy allegedly admitted to conducting an unapproved, outside business activity.  FINRA barred Murphy in October 2016 after Murphy failed to respond to a FINRA inquiry.

The discharge follows five other disclosures on his BrokerCheck report.  In 2000, Murphy was permitted to resign from his employing firm. In November 2014, Metlife terminated Murphy after he allegedly represented that he had a professional designation that he had not earned.  In December 2015, a customer dispute alleging misrepresentations of variable annuities was settled for the full amount demanded.

Silver Law Group is investigating former Dallas, Texas-based LPL Financial LLC (CRD# 6413) broker Marcos Yanez (CRD# 5353857) over allegations that Yanez misrepresented certain aspects in the sale of a variable life insurance policy amidst other allegations.

According to Yanez’s FINRA BrokerCheck report, a customer filed a complaint against Yanez in March 2017.  The FINRA arbitration complaint alleges misrepresentations in the sale of a variable life insurance policy, and that Yanez advised the customer to take out a margin loan in order to loan money to the advisor.

LPL Financial employed Yanez from December 2011 to March 2016 at its Dallas, Texas branch.  According to Yanez’s detailed CRD report, Yanez operated under the moniker Staib Wealth Management from February 2014 until the name changed to Silver Sail Wealth Advisors in February 2015.  Yanez is no longer registered with FINRA.

Silver Law Group is investigating former Montana-based Western International Securities, Inc. (CRD# 39262) broker Jed E. Tinder (CRD# 1013144) over allegations of unsuitability, recklessness and negligence.

According to Tinder’s FINRA BrokerCheck report, Tinder currently has three (3) pending FINRA arbitration complaints.  The first, filed in September 2015, alleges unsuitable recommendations and damages in the amount of $1.2 million.  The second, filed in July 2016, alleges unsuitability and damages in the amount of $187,000.  The third, filed in August 2016, alleges recklessness, negligence and damages in the amount of over $181,000.

In 2006, though denied, a customer filed a complaint involving variable annuities and equity-indexed annuities.

Silver Law Group is investigating former Nebraska-based Independent Financial Group, LLC (CRD# 7717) broker Matthew L. Geiser after FINRA permanently barred him.

According to Geiser’s FINRA BrokerCheck report, FINRA permanently barred Geiser from acting as a broker or otherwise associating with firms that sell securities to the public in November 2016.  FINRA and Geiser entered in an Acceptance, Waiver & Consent (“AWC”) in which Geiser consented to the bar and findings that he refused to appear for FINRA on-the-record testimony in connection with an investigation into allegations of misconduct against Geiser, including allegations of unsuitable recommendations and misleading statements about variable annuities.

Geiser, who initially was employed by Princor Financial Services Corporation (CRD# 7717), was discharged by Princor in September 2015 for issues involving suitability recommendations.  Princor is also known as Principle Securities, Inc. Since Princor’s discharge of Geiser, 11 FINRA arbitration complaints against Geiser have settled.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has recently sponsored a new securities industry rule that makes the information included on customer account statements more transparent.  Transparent commissions will likely lower the total up-front commissions a broker can collect on certain popular securities as investors realize the steep fees they are paying.

Nontraded real estate investment trusts (REITs) are among the most popular investment products sold by registered representatives and their broker-dealers.  Typically sold for less than $10 per share, the commission to a rep and the firm in this $1.4 billion “alternative investment” sector of the retail investment market is 7%, though the amount that goes toward the total upfront commission is split amongst several different players involved in selling the REIT.  A problem for investors is that their account statements do not clearly show the breakdown of those commissions or the estimated per-share valuation of their investment — something that the current rules do not require be revealed to them until 18 months after the REIT sponsors stop raising funds.

Under FINRA’s proposed new rule, the time frame in which broker-dealers will have to show investors a true valuation of such purchases will be drastically sped up.  By accelerating that timetable, investors will be provided quicker and much greater transparency in seeing the commissions being charged to them; and industry experts anticipate that broker-dealers are likely to lower the fees they assess to investors on such alternative investments.  Both nontraded REITs and illiquid private placements known as “direct participation programs” (DPPs), which would also fall directly under this new rule, have frequently been criticized for high commissions.

Of all the guarantees, bells and whistles associated with variable annuities, perhaps the biggest guarantee is the steep up-front commission the financial advisor can earn for selling the product.

According to a recent Reuters’ article, variable annuity sales in the U.S. totaled $142.8 billion last year, and brokers can earn 7 percent or more in commissions on the insurance products.  Based on simple arithmetic, the commissions earned on an annual basis exceeds a billion dollars.

However, investors may be damaged when these complex products are not properly explained, tax or liquidity factors are not considered, or the advisor engages in “twisting” of improper annuity switching.  “Twisting” happens when a broker encourages a client to trade in an older annuity to buy a different one, often at significant cost to the client and benefit to the broker.

The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), Investor Bulletin on fees and expenses reminds investors about the effect fees on investment accounts can have on a portfolio over the long run.  According to the SEC Investor Bulletin, “These fees may seem small, but over time they can have a major impact on your investment portfolio.”  The SEC’s Office of Investor Education illustrates the effects through the use of a graph.  In the hypothetical example, a $100,000 portfolio is assumed to grow 4% annually with annual fees of 0.25%, 0.50% and 1.00% that are deducted over a 20-year period.  The differences between the account values at the end of period show a $30,000 disparity in portfolio values between the portfolios with 1.00% and 0.25% in annual fees deducted from the respective portfolios.  This simplistic example should make investors wary about the fees they are paying, whether disclosed or not, these fees can greatly diminish any retirement nest egg.

The SEC Investor Bulletin urges investors to “get informed” by reviewing account statements, confirmations and investment prospectuses to become better informed.  The bulletin also provides helpful questions investors should ask their financial advisors before investing:

What are all the fees relating to this account?

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