Four brokers from the Atlanta, Georgia area have been accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of conning federal employees out of their retirements savings. The SEC has accused these brokers of taking approximately $40 million from former federal government employees. The fraud charges were filed on Monday.
In the filing, the SEC alleges that the brokers, who worked with a firm out of Alpharetta, encouraged older employees with substantial quantities in their federal retirement accounts to transfer those retirement savings to investments with much higher fees. While the brokers are not looking at jail time, the SEC intends to force them to repay the money with interest and other potential penalties.
Associate Director of the SEC’s Regional Office in Atlanta, Aaron W. Lipson, spoke about the agents and their alleged actions. The agents are believed to have “targeted federal employees aged 59 ½ and over and intentionally obscured important details when recommending variable annuity purchase”.
Simultaneously, the brokers are accused of using a supposed connection between their firm, the Federal Employee Benefits Counselors, and the government to convince the victims that their money would be in safe hands. In the end, the products offered by the group went on to be processed by a private brokerage firm. The agents are accused of selling federal employees approximately 200 variable annuities with a maximum value of $40 million.
The SEC alleges that the agents earned roughly $1.7 million in commissions from March of 2012 to November of 2014. Two of the brokers are being represented by the law firm Rogers & Hardin. Steve Councill with that firm represents Jonathan D. Cooke and Christopher Laws. He admits, “we have only reviewed the SEC’s press release at this time, but it is shocking false and misleading.”
He went on to defend his clients saying they “did not do what the SEC claims.” Broker Brandon P. Long has also been charged. It is unknown whether or not he has obtained representation at this time. The 4th accused broker with Federal Employee Benefit Counselors, Danny S. Hood, no longer works for the company.
As of late, the SEC has been clamping down hard on brokers and advisers attempting to prey on victims nearing the retirement age. The National Exam Program strives to protect investors. For 2017, one of the group’s top priorities is to protect retiring investors. The group admits the justification behind focusing on these issues is that “as the U.S. population ages and investors become more dependent than ever on their own investments and retirement income.”