Advisor Tony Barouti (Barouti), currently employed by brokerage firm Emerson Equity LLC (Emerson Equity) has been subject to at least 15 disclosures and customer complaints. According to a BrokerCheck report the customer complaints concern alternative investments such as direct participation products (DPPs) like business development companies (BDCs), non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and private placements. In Barouti’s case many of the complaints totaling over $5 million in claimed damages have occurred from the sale of GWG Holdings L-Bonds. GWG went into bankruptcy. The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP represented nearly 100 investors who suffered losses in GWG.
GWG’s business focused on the acquisition of life insurance policies in the secondary market. GWG was offered to investors even though the company had no significant operating history and no profits. Until 2018, GWG’s sole business was to borrow money to buy life insurance policies in the secondary market at prices that are less than the face value of the insurance benefits payable upon the death of the insureds. GWG would then hold the policies until maturity and collect the face value upon the insured’s death.
The contours of the GWG bonds are as follows:
- Brokers Earned up to 8% commissions.
- GWG bonds are inadequately secured. While GWG claims that the L Bonds are secured by insurance portfolio, in the prospectus, the life insurance policies held by DLP IV and Life Trust “do not serve as direct collateral for the L Bonds” and have been “pledged as direct collateral securing” other debt obligations senior to L Bond investors.
- GWG bonds are “auto-renewable.” Like a magazine subscription, unless an L bond investor gives notice ahead of the maturity date that they wish to redeem their investment, the bond is renewed automatically and replaced with a new one with the same terms and interest rate then being offered by GWG. This feature forces investors to be vigilant as expiration approaches.
- GWG bonds are unlisted. This means the bonds are not tradable on any stock exchange. Because there is no market for the L Bonds there is no way for an investor to regularly gauge the value of an L Bonds or the credit worthiness of GWG based on market sentiment.
- GWG bonds are not rated. L Bonds were not credit rated by any credit rating agency nor were they insured.