Finra panel orders Ameriprise to pay couple $1.17 million

Rules real estate investments were unsuitable for retired school teachers

May 5, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

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A Finra arbitration panel ordered Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. to pay two elderly California investors $1.17 million for putting them in real estate investments that tanked.

On May 1, a Finra arbitration panel in San Francisco ruled that Ameriprise had inappropriately advised two retired schoolteachers to sink a total of $1.03 million into three risky tenant-in-common investments in office complexes and hotels in early 2008.

One of them failed and two of the others declined in value substantially, according to a statement by the investors' attorney, who said that the couple lost most of their life savings.

The investors put their money into ARI-Onyx Office Plaza Tenant In Common; Moody Springhill Suites Pittsburgh Tenant in Common; and Moody Marriott TownePlace Suites Portland Scarborough Tenant in Common. The Pittsburgh and Portland Scarborough TICs were rescinded to Ameriprise, which will assume ownership of the investments after it has paid the arbitration award to the investors.

“The evidence shows that Ameriprise repeatedly failed to follow its supervisory procedures,” Kalju Nekvasil, an attorney with Goodman & Nekvasil, said in a statement. Mr. Nekvasil represented Albertus Niehuis Jr., 82, a retired math teacher, and his wife, Andrea S. Niehuis, a retired elementary schoolteacher.

“It is truly unfortunate that when an investor is wronged, Ameriprise refused to voluntarily step up to the plate and do the right thing,” Mr. Nekvasil added.

Ameriprise said that its financial adviser gave appropriate guidance to the Niehuises.

“We strongly disagree with the decision and stand behind the recommendations the adviser made as being appropriate and suitable,” John Brine, Ameriprise vice president for public relations, said in an interview. “Our due diligence process and the training we provide advisers for these types of products is robust.”

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