High-living broker Cliff Popper commits suicide in Florida

He was the center of the downfall of Brookstreet Securities in 2007

Jan 6, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

By Bruce Kelly

Cliff Popper, a broker notorious for high living and high commissions from sales of mortgage-backed securities, committed suicide Tuesday, according to a preliminary report from the Highland Beach (Fla.) Police Department.

His body was found at his condominium Tuesday.

Just last month, Mr. Popper defended himself at his federal civil fraud trial in West Palm Beach.

Mr. Popper, who had offices in Coral Springs and Boca Raton, Fla., was the broker at the center of the downfall of Brookstreet Securities Corp., which collapsed in 2007 after its clearing firm, National Financial Services LLC, made a margin call on accounts with collateralized mortgage obligations. His team at Brookstreet was instrumental in selling those CMOs, according to Securities and Exchange Commission complaints.

With 500 representatives at the time, Brookstreet was the first notable collapse in a string of failures of an independent broker-dealer from the sale of a specific high-risk product.

In May 2009, the SEC charged Mr. Popper and nine other brokers with misleading people into putting their life savings into investments that collapsed along with the real estate market. In all, 750 people bought the CMOs, according to the SEC, and clients who had margin accounts lost over $36 million.

Mr. Popper and his team made more than $18 million in salary and commissions on the mortgage-backed securities in just three years, according to the SEC.

He was well-known in the brokerage industry for his “rock star” tastes and lifestyle.

Mr. Popper drove a BMW Z8, entertained clients in a sky box at Sun Life Stadium and owned a $2.4 million condominium on South Beach, according to the Miami Herald.

In a story about stretch limousines from The New York Times in January 2005, he said that he had rented a stretch Bentley limousine to take clients to the Hawaiian Tropic model party the weekend of Super Bowl XXXIX. The limo cost $2,000.

“It makes a statement. It turns heads and it's equated with being successful,” Mr. Popper told the Times.

“It's the premier event in this country in terms of visibility, so you want to be in sync with that,” Mr. Popper told the publication.

According to the Herald, he represented himself in the SEC matter, arguing in court that he never should have been charged.

Mr. Popper began his career in the securities industry in 1983 with Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc., according to his profile on BrokerCheck. He worked for 20 firms, with the last being Workman Securities Corp. in 2008. He had not worked in the securities industry since.

Mr. Popper said that he “never made any intentional misrepresentations to anyone,” and his business was hit by the same market force that wiped out big firms such as The Bear Stearns Cos. Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Jeffrey Kaplan, a former lawyer for Mr. Popper, didn't return a call Friday afternoon seeking comment.

But Mr. Kaplan told the Herald that Mr. Popper was recently “under a massive amount of personal stress.”


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

RIA Data Center

Use InvestmentNews' RIA Data Center to filter and find key information on over 1,400 fee-only registered investment advisory firms.

Rank RIAs by

Featured video


The #MeToo movement and the financial advice industry

Attendees at the Women to Watch luncheon commend the #MeToo movement for raising awareness about the issue of sexual harassment and bringing women together.

Latest news & opinion

Stocks plunge, advisers tell clients to hang tight

Though planners encourage calm, some are preparing investors for a correction.

Lightyear Capital's Donald Marron said to be in the hunt for Cetera Financial Group

The veteran brokerage executive, who bought Advisor Group in 2016, owned Cetera once before.

What to watch for next with the DOL fiduciary rule

Much hinges on whether the Labor Department appeals the 5th Circuit decision by April 30.

Social Security benefits losing buying power

Low inflation combined with rising Medicare costs threaten the adequacy of seniors' income.

Finra looks to streamline broker-dealer exams

CEO Robert Cook says three examination teams may be consolidated.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print