I was there. I admit it.
On a sunny Wednesday night last June, I tagged along with my clients: Violet and Max (not their real names) as their “son” to a free steak dinner.
An upper-to-middle-priced chain steak restaurant; side room; 12 tables; salt and pepper couples; appetizers, and cheap merlot abounded.
The classic set-up.
The crowd showcased mostly an upper middle class flair (the postcard targeted zip-codes) asking for salvation to their retirement woes over a porterhouse.
Some were there exclusively for the free meal, but I feared the worst: some actually needed help, and this was who they planned to trust…
And Larry. I’ll never forget Larry (his real name). His never-ending perennial plate licking attendance according to Max was legendary. As he entered the local leaderboard of most attended financial dinners, we celebrated one more plate for Larry.
We didn’t eat, so don’t worry I didn’t get a free dinner from them.
Just before we could eat, Max “had enough,” and started heckling them.
He was starving.
We’d learned plates were intentionally held-up until the “education” ended, and Violet couldn’t calm him down anymore, so she joined in:
“We’re old! We’ve already been ripped-off! What do we need to do?!”
“Fear, Fear, Fear. Stop selling it, and tell us what to do!”
“Give me a break on these checklists…”
“Why would we ‘Google-it’? You’re the expert!”
I took copious notes, but they were confiscated upon our pre-mature negotiated exit to the door. “I’ll need all your materials please,” the Event Planner said, snatching my notes like a parent rolling up to her home witnessing a house party would strip her son of his Coors Light. Busted.
It didn’t matter though. I found something even more interesting than all the “education” in the steak seminar:
A pending felony on one of the presenters.
Violet asked me to have 5 questions they wouldn’t be able to answer, or they’d finally realize she knew their game, and how they we’re trying to take advantage of people.
Just before I e-mailed five blistering high inside fast ball questions to Violet, I halted on the send button…I should do my last bit of homework…
Why you should always do an SEC and/or FINRA Broker Dealer Search:
Tell me if this sounds like a professional bio of someone you might work with (details have been changed to protect the innocent, or guilty depending on how you look at it.)
Bernie Abagnale Jr. (not his real name) joined ‘this firm’ in winter of 2014. He is a 1993 graduate of some University in California where he studied political science and business.
Bernie brings with him fifteen years of extensive private business experience. He has owned and directed “successful” corporations and has accumulated years of knowledge in individual and business finance. Bernie is a licensed Series 65 Investment Advisor Representative.
Bernie is passionate about working with clients of all ages.
His wife Jules and their two daughters, Carrie and Sophia, and the family dogs, JuJu and Riley have been living in your backyard for 10 years…
Here’s what the SEC says about Bernie Jr.:
Charge Date: 08/19/2015
Formal Charge(s)/Description: 26 U.S.C 7206(1) Willfully subscribing a tax return containing falsities; 18 U.S.C. 2 Causing acts to be done
Felony or Misdemeanor: Felony
Plea for each charge: Not guilty
Formal Charge(s) /Descriptions: 18 U.S.C. 371 – Conspiracy to defraud the U.S. – tax
Current status: Pending
Broker statement: The government charged me and two of my chiropractic practice partners with submitting tax returns with false statements. The government claims that I underpaid my taxes for 2008, 2009, and 2010. I have pled not guilty and plan to vigorously defend myself in Colorado Court. I sold the chiropractic practice on or about 4/15/2014 because I was involved in an automobile accident which resulted in a disability that made me unable to continue my chiropractic work.
What you don’t know to ask
First, everybody makes mistakes. Yes. I’m guilty. But. Really. How can you say you ran “successful” businesses, and call yourself a financial advisor if you have a pending tax evasion felony from your past chiropractic empire?
In my book, that’s serious creative writing.
Based on his charisma, he didn’t seem disabled either…
There were many more red flags, but this one caught my attention.
Always check out the firm, advisor, and products first. Trust but verify.
If you ever need a second look, we are happy to review any financial plan, advisor, or product you get pitched. We could help you avoid a free steak dinner that could end up costing you a whole lot more.