Securities America – A leopard with the same spots.

Yes, I have a few miles on me and more than my share of gray hair (although my driver’s license says it’s brown). But that sometimes gives me a good perspective. 7 years ago, my law partner and I handled a customer case against Securities America. At the time we handled the case, Securities America was a subsidiary of American Express Financial Advisors, itself a subsidiary of American Express.

The case involved a stolen identity for the broker, failure to supervise by the firm and giant damages award to our clients, including attorneys’ fees. One of the witnesses in the case was the head of compliance for Securities America, David O. Spinar. His underlings conducted an “audit” of the branch in question that I described as a “drive-by.” The arbitrators seemed to agree with that assessment.

Mr. Spinar is in the news. He apparently had misgivings about Securities America’s marketing of Medical Capital Associates and its affiliate products. Investment News reports that he voiced his concerns about the lack of audited financials. Interestingly enough, Mr. Spinar saw this as a warning sign. In the case we handled some years ago, there were plenty of red flags, but no one seemed to notice, until it was too late.

So it looks like Mr. Spinar, who no longer works for Securities America, will be in the witness chair again. At least, this time, American Express won’t see its name in the headlines. But Ameriprise, the spinoff that has since merged with H&R Block Financial, is likely to be fighting many battles to come.

But you have to ask yourself, what was Securities America doing selling this crap anyway? The Medical Capital Associates saga will likely continue for some time. Stay tuned.

That’s the view of one Lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.

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