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Consumer Alert: Watch Out for Pitchmen — Come Hear Our Pitch

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MARCH 28, 2011 VOLUME 18 NUMBER 11
Are we just too cynical? Is it possible that the flyer we received in the mail last week is genuinely valuable and the company upstanding? Could it be that it is not an annuity sales pitch aimed at seniors?

On one side we see a series of “Consumer Alerts.” They look serious, and they are even numbered. They caution readers to watch out for people holding themselves out as “senior advisor,” “senior consultant,” or similar designations. They even warn the reader that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners is on the watch for those designations, and has adopted a “model regulation” to discourage their use.

By the time you read to “Alert #2,” however, you begin to wonder. It warns you that if you have an annuity that is two years old or older “YOU MUST ATTEND” the seminar advertised on the reverse side of the flyer.

“Alert #3” leaves you even more doubtful. It promises that a series of apparent luminaries will have “RECORDED MESSAGES” at the seminar.

Flip it over, and the flyer invites you to “Be Our Dinner Guest” at one of three high-end local restaurants. Dinner begins at 3:30PM in each case, so you might want to speculate on how that will work. Maybe you won’t have to speculate too much, however; in smaller print you see that dinner will be offered after “our acclaimed workshop.” You will also learn that you have to “qualify to attend,” and that “financial advisors, insurance agents, attorneys and accountants pay $1,000 attendance fee.” Apparently this is a pretty high-powered program!

Who are these people, and what are they up to?

The flyer lists an organization called Secured Financial Solutions, LLC, as sponsor. The principals in Secured Financial Solutions appear to be Anil Vazirani and Richard Radaelli; neither of their names appear anywhere on the flyer we received. Their names do appear in a 2008 article in Life Insurance Selling magazine, which indicates that they generated over $200 million in insurance premiums in the three years before the article — “most of it in fixed indexed annuities.”

Let’s go back to those “consumer alerts.” The first one, remember, identifies the National Association of Insurance Commissioners as being on the lookout for salesmen using designations like “Senior Advisor.” In fact, the NAIC is a very active organization and it does counsel caution in dealing with insurance, annuity and investment advisors. The (then) President-Elect of the NAIC even testified before Congress in 2007 about concerns for designations like “Certified Senior Adviser,” “Certified Retirement Financial Adviser,” “Chartered Senior Financial Planner,” and “Certified Financial Gerontologist.” Those designations, and others like them, falsely imply that their holders have specialized training and expertise. In fact, they tend to be marketing tools rather than meaningful designations, according to Ms. Praeger’s testimony.

A year later, as President of the NAIC, Ms. Praeger had more to say about investment scams targeting seniors. In a June, 2008, press release from the NAIC she gives good advice on how to deal with annuity salesmen. Two of her good ideas: “Beware of ‘free lunch’ investment seminars,” and “Never make a final decision at a seminar.” We think those are good pieces of advice.

In fact, the NAIC has plenty of suggestions for consumers — particularly seniors — to help protect themselves from unscrupulous financial advisers. A few of our favorites:

All right — maybe we’re too cynical. After all, the flyer includes apparent endorsements from a number of luminaries — like Ben Stein (a Fox News commentator who was once discharged by the New York Times over his activities as a pitchman for a questionable “free credit report” product), Charlie Gasparino (another Fox commentator, and author of “The Sellout: How Wall Street Greed and Government Mismanagement Destroyed America’s Global Financial System”) and Harry Dent, Jr. (a financial writer and author who in 2006 predicted the Dow would hit 40,000 by 2010 — it didn’t).

On top of all that, some portion of the enterprise described in the flyer (it is unclear exactly what) is part of “Arizona’s Best in Business — as seen in April 2009, March 2010 & February 2011 of Forbes Magazine.” OK, we’re cynical — we suspect that this refers to an advertisement placed by Secured Financial Solutions. But we’re prepared to be proven wrong and to confess our cynicism about annuity sales tactics and free-dinner workshops.

One Response

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’ve always been leery of these type of pitches, but I figured a “free lunch (or dinner” would make it worth hearing what the person had to say. I made a reservation for the dinner and asked if they needed to know anything. No, it wasn’t necessary, the person said. Then, today I get a call to see if I “qualified.” The person asked a sseries of questions and decided I was “too independent” and wasn’t qualified for the dinner. I complained, saying that I was interested in what they had to say about annuities, and I then had a call from Anil. He immediately said he had a right to “disinvite” me, according to the flyer. He said he wasn’t in business in give out free meals and that he’s dealt with people like me before, and said for me to go ahead and file a complaint because he has two law firms to handle people like me. Then he offered to come to my house to talk to me about his annuities. I said now that I’ve talked to him and learned how he deals with the public, I no longer have an interest in dealing with him. But I intend to file a complaint with the Dept. of Insurance on the use of these flyers to continually “harass” me by filling up my mailbox with “free” offers that are only “free” if I pony up money to buy his product.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.