Four former Atlanta-area brokers, Christopher Laws, Jonathan Cooke, Danny Hood, and Brandon Long, targeted federal employees close to retirement with a sizable amount of funds invested in their TSP due to being “motivated by the prospects of higher commissions,” according to Aaron Lipson, associate director of the Securities and Exchange Commission‘s Atlanta Regional Office.
The four individuals misled federal employees, targeting those 59 and a half years old and older while “intentionally obscure[ing] important details when recommending variable annuity purchases,” Lipson said in a release. On certain occasions, the four even sent out incomplete or modified transaction forms, as well as written materials devised to obscure the investments. Other times, federal employees were led to believe that their funds would be invested in a product that the TSP offered, vetted or selected.
Overall, the four sold around 200 variable annuities with a total value around $40 million, earning them, collectively, about $1.7 million in sales commissions.
The SEC issued an alert to federal employees explaining that TSP will never attempt to contact federal employees, ask for personal information or authorize third-parties to give counsel on investments or other related services.
The four former brokers and the Federal Employee Benefits Counselors are formally charged with the violation, aiding and abetting violations of some or all the provisions in Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5.