Well Fargo Advisers to Pay $2 Million to Settle Claims that Broker Sold Unsuitable Reverse Convertible Securities to Seniors

To settle Financial Industry Regulatory Authority securities fraud allegations against one of its brokers, Wells Fargo Advisers will pay a $2M fine, as well as repay an unspecified amount to elderly clients that were defrauded. Over 21 senior investors were reportedly targeted by Alfred Chi Chen, who sold them reverse convertible notes even though the majority of them were retired and/or had never invested in this type of complex instrument. A number of investors were in their 80’s and 90’s.

FINRA says that Chen made over $1M in commissions even as the investors sustained losses. He also is accused of not giving discounts on Unit Investment Trust (UIT) transactions even when clients were eligible. As part of its settlement, Wells Fargo will pay restitution to those that should have but did not get the discounts and those that were sold unsuitable investments.

FINRA Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement Brad Bennett said that Wells Fargo did not review the reverse convertible transactions to make sure that they were suitable and that investors were harmed as a result. The SRO also determined that Wells Fargo did not give certain clients that were eligible breakpoint and rollover and exchange discounts when they bought UITs because the financial firm’s procedures and systems were not sufficient to properly monitor unsuitable reverse convertibles and ensure that clients got the discounts for which they were eligible. (Discounts should be offered on UIT sales when purchases go beyond certain thresholds or involve termination or redemption proceeds from another UIT during the initial offering period.)

By agreeing to settle, Wells Fargo is not admitting to or denying FINRA’s allegations.

The SRO has filed a separate complaint against Chen, who allegedly exposed clients to risks that were not in line with their investment profiles. As of June 2008, 172 of the accounts he worked with held reverse convertibles. 148 accounts had concentrations over the 50% of their total holdings. 46 accounts had concentrations of over 90%.

Reverse Convertibles
These interest-bearing notes involve repayment of principal connected to an underlying asset’s performance. The specific terms of reverse convertibles may vary. An investor risks loss if the underlying asset’s value drops under a certain maturity level or during the reverse convertible’s term.

It is important for many elderly investors that their investments not expose them to too much risk. For an elderly senior to lose his/her life savings because a financial firm or broker behaved irresponsibly, committed securities fraud, or made an avoidable mistake is unacceptable.

Wells to pay $2M to settle claims broker sold unsuitable investments to seniors, Investment News, December 15, 2011
Wells Fargo Fined by Finra Selling Structured Notes to Aged, Bloomberg, December 15, 2011

More Blog Posts:

Broker-Dealers are Making Reverse Convertible Sales That are Harming Investors, Says SEC, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 28, 2011
RBC Wealth Management Unit Ferris Baker Watts to Pay Investors Restitution Over Reverse Convertible Notes Allegations, Says FINRA, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 23, 2010
Wells Fargo Settles for $148M Municipal Bond Bid-Rigging Charges Against Wachovia Bank, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, December 8, 2011
Contact our senior financial fraud law firm today. Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD LLP represents stockbroker fraud victims throughout the US. We also represent clients abroad with claims against financial firms in the country.