Former MetLife, Prudential broker accused of deceptive variable annuity sales practices

The adviser allegedly hid improper annuity exchanges from his clients and broker-dealers in part by falsifying documents and misrepresenting some of the annuity features

Mar 1, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

By Greg Iacurci

+ Zoom

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has accused a former MetLife Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc. broker of harmful and deceptive sales practices relating to variable annuities.

Winston Wade Turner, formerly a registered representative of MetLife Securities Inc. and Pruco Securities Inc., allegedly “engaged in a course of deception and other misconduct in connection with sales and exchanges of variable annuities involving numerous customers,” according to a complaint filed Feb. 25 by Finra's Department of Enforcement.

Among other allegations, Mr. Turner allegedly induced some clients to exchange their variable annuities and other investments, whereby they surrendered existing contracts to fund purchases of new variable annuities, sometimes incurring surrender charges for the investor and generating additional commissions for Mr. Turner, according to the complaint.

Mr. Turner hid the unsuitable nature of these transactions from his clients and broker-dealers, partly by falsifying documents and misrepresenting the way some income features on the annuity contracts worked, the complaint says.

Some critics have argued that high commissions paid on variable annuity contracts provide an incentive to sell these products, while others argue that high compensation is justified because they are complex financial products and require additional paperwork, all of which contribute to more work and a longer sales process.

In total, 12 different clients were referenced in the complaint. Although monetary damages due to Mr. Turner's alleged misconduct weren't listed for each individual, the complaint details approximately $151,000 in lost money among five of the clients due largely to charges incurred for surrendering the VA contracts.

Finra is requesting, among other things, that Mr. Turner “disgorge fully any and all ill-gotten gains, together with interest,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Turner couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the allegations.

Jonathan Golomb, senior special counsel in Finra's Department of Enforcement and the signatory of the complaint, declined comment beyond the complaint's text because of the active status of the case.

Mr. Turner was a registered representative of MetLife Securities from 2011 to 2013, and with Pruco from 2013 to 2015. He was terminated from Pruco in August 2015 for making an unsuitable recommendation and providing inaccurate information regarding the transaction, according to the Finra complaint.

A Finra BrokerCheck report of Mr. Turner indicates he has two outstanding customer disputes from his time at Pruco, which allege damages of $75,200 and $49,040, respectively.


Mr. Turner allegedly hid the nature of the variable annuity transactions detailed in the Finra complaint from his broker-dealer by circumventing the “additional supervisory scrutiny and documentation” required for these exchanges, the complaint says.

In some cases, Mr. Turner disguised his actions by recommending clients deposit proceeds from the surrender of the VA contracts into their bank accounts, and then using that bank money to buy new variable annuities, rather than doing it as a direct transfer from annuity to annuity, according to the complaint.

He also allegedly falsified VA applications, customer information forms, and related documents for VA exchanges; forged customer signatures; and misrepresented his own e-mail address as that of customers to ensure he received account notifications rather than his clients.

In addition, Mr. Turner allegedly falsely represented the function of income riders on some of the VA contracts, telling clients that their contracts would generate a guaranteed minimum amount of interest annually. In fact, the contracts only guaranteed minimum withdrawal or annuitization rates, not annual interest accruals, through features such as a guaranteed minimum income benefit (GMIB), the complaint says.

Mr. Turner is no longer a registered representative, but has an active license to sell insurance products in the state of Florida. That means he's currently barred from selling securities products such as variable annuities, but can still sell certain insurance products such as fixed and fixed-indexed annuities.


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Upcoming Event

Sep 19


A New Look at Reverse Mortgages - An Emerging Retirement Income Tool

An advisor's biggest challenge today is often how to make income and assets last through an ever-lengthening retirement span. Strategic use of a reverse mortgage can deliver improved retirement cash flow and increased chances of portfolio... Learn more

Accepted for 1 CE Credit from the CFP Board. Approved by IMCA for 1 CIMA/CIMC/CPWA CE credit. Approved for 1 CFA Credit.

Featured video


What does the adviser of the future need in their toolbox?

Advisers continue to embrace all of the new offerings and products the fintech space has to offer. But what else can help them improve their business?

Video Spotlight

Are Your Clients Prepared For Market Downturns?

Sponsored by Prudential

Video Spotlight

Path to growth

Video Spotlight

Path to growth

Latest news & opinion

What not to say to clients when the markets drop

Here's what advisers should steer clear of saying the next time stocks turn downward.

SEC bars former rep for alleged share price manipulation

George Thoreson tried to keep penny stock's price high to enable Nasdaq listing.

Nevada fiduciary law raises concerns among retirement professionals, brokerage industry

Critics complain that it conflicts with ERISA and SEC rules and has potential to spur other states to pass their own version of a fiduciary rule.

A special need for financial advice

Advisers don't have to be experts to help special needs families get a jump on lifelong planning.

Broker-dealers and RIAs at loggerheads over fiduciary rule delay

Companies and groups weighing in with comment letters have vastly different viewpoints on the delay's potential impact.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print