New York Times Investigates Broker Walter Marino’s Annuity Sales

shutterstock_27597505Our firm’s investment attorneys are investigating reports in a New York Times article and customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Walter Marino (Marino) currently associated with Benjamin Securities, Inc. (Benjamin Securities) alleging unsuitable recommendations to invest in variable products such as variable annuities and equity indexed annuities.  According to brokercheck records Marino has been subject to seven customer complaints and three employment separations for cause.

According to the New York Times, Marino solicited teachers to invest in high cost low quality annuities with their retirement savings.  The Legend Group was alleged to be the provider of the investments all these teachers held.  The firm fired Marino on grounds other than the investment fee issue. According to Marino’s brokercheck records the cause of the separation was that Marino represented to the firm that an annuity investment was not a replacement when in fact the firm determined it was.  Legend has stated that their investments and charges “were consistent with the firm’s policies.”

Variable annuities and equity indexed annuities are complex financial and insurance products.  In fact, recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a publication entitled: Variable Annuities: What You Should Know encouraging investors to ask questions about the variable annuity before investing.  Essentially, a variable annuity is a contract with an insurance company under which the insurer agrees to make periodic payments to you.  The investor chooses the investments made in the annuity and value of your variable annuity will vary depending on the performance of the investment options chosen.  The primary benefits of variable annuities are the death benefit and tax deferment of investment gains.

However, the benefits of variable annuities are often outweighed by the terms of the contract that include exorbitant expenses such as surrender charges, mortality and expense charges, management fees, market-related risks, and rider costs.

Marino entered the securities industry in 1993.  From July 2002 until August 2015, Marino was associated with Legend Equities Corporation.  From August 2015 until September 2015 Marino was associated with Planmember Securities Corporation.  From October 2015 until October 2016 Marino was associated with Lincoln Investment.  Finally since November 2016 Marino has been associated with Benjamin Securities out of the firm’s Hauppauge, New York office location.

The number of events listed on Marino brokercheck is high relative to his peers.  According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records.  Brokers must publicly disclose certain types of reportable events on their CRD including but not limited to customer complaints.  In addition to disclosing client disputes brokers must divulge IRS tax liens, judgments, and criminal matters.  However, FINRA’s records are not always complete according to a Wall Street Journal story that checked with 26 state regulators and found that at least 38,400 brokers had regulatory or financial red flags such as a personal bankruptcy that showed up in state records but not on BrokerCheck.  More disturbing is the fact that 19,000 out of those 38,400 brokers had spotless BrokerCheck records.

Gana LLP’s securities fraud attorneys represent investors who have suffered securities losses due to the mishandling of their accounts due to claims of fraud and negligence.  The majority of these claims may be brought in securities arbitration before FINRA.  Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.