Stifel, a wealth management and investment banking firm, was recently ordered to pay more than $117,000 to an elderly couple after their investment adviser placed their savings into risky investments without securing permission.
June Burns, an 81-year-old retired schoolteacher and her husband Perry, an 87-year-old retired factory worker and rancher first filed their arbitration claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in December of 2015. In their claim, the couple alleged that Kyle Ratcliff, a branch manager at Stifel placed their retirement funds into Puerto Rican bonds and gas and oil investments and lost them a significant portion of their money.
“This was all the money they had, and they put it with Stifel,” said attorney Courtney Werning, who represented the couple. “It was extremely risky, and these people were risk-averse. There’s no way this stuff was suitable for them.”
Following five hearing sessions, the arbitrator granted the couple full compensatory damages on February 9 – $79,709 plus attorney’s fees and interest.
According to their filing, the couple transferred their account to Stifel from Wells Fargo after Ratcliff changed companies in 2010. In May of 2013, he purchased more than $40,000 in gas and oil shares and stocks of a fund that invested in energy royalty trusts, and in April of 2014 Ratcliff bought a $23,000 stake in a Puerto Rican municipal bond fund. Months after that, he purchased additional shares in two more gas and oil companies – all of these purchases were reportedly made without the Burns’ permission.
As their accounts began to plummet in value, Perry asked his daughter to look over their statements in order to identify the problem. After doing so, she filed a complaint with Stifel, but the company failed to take action in response. The couple then transferred what remained of their money out of the firm in November of 2015, and filed their claim one month later with a request for an expedited proceeding using a rule that allows for it if the parties involved are seriously ill or elderly.
After Werning informed the family of their win, a relative quickly informed the couple of the success in the hospital where Perry laid bedridden. Mr. Burns passed away soon thereafter.
“It was a full win for the Burnses,” said Werning. “We’re really happy with the result.”
At Meyer Wilson, our securities fraud attorneys are committed to providing our clients with the experienced and passionate legal representation they need to secure the outcome they deserve. If you lost money due to broker misconduct or wrongdoing, call us at one of our office locations to discuss your case with a member of our firm, or fill out our online form to request a free case evaluation today.