Wells Fargo Expels Big Indie Team for Alleged Annuity Practices
(Story was updated in last paragraph to reflect Finra’s bar of Kim Dee Isaacson.)
A multi-city team of independent brokers who earlier this month switched their brokerage affiliations to Ameriprise Financial from Wells Fargo’s Financial Network unit were “permitted to resign” because of annuity sales practices, according to new regulatory reports.
Ameriprise confirmed last week that 15 of Bison Financial Group’s 21 brokers had joined its independent “franchise” network, saying the Lafayette, Indiana-based group was eager to affiliate with a broker-dealer that could help them “attract, serve and retain target-market clients.”
On Monday, the BrokerCheck sites of Bison CEO David C. Vorbeck, President F. Stephen Dunnuck and Lafayette market director Stephen R. Wien said they were each permitted by Wells Fargo to resign due to “termination of licensee agreement of certain annuity processes.”
The shift of Bison, a firm notable among independent contractor firms for its multi-office structure, has set off a wave of attorney contacts as the varying groups seek to woo each other’s clients.
As AdvisorHub reported last week, some brokers have left Bison. They include the two brokers at its Melbourne, Florida, office and three others in Terre Haute, Indiana. The five have retained their affiliations as independent firms with Wells Fargo.
Another adviser in Bison’s Cincinnati outpost has joined an existing FiNet firm, sources said on Tuesday.
Several sources alleged that the firm’s principals manipulated commissions by initiating annuity exchanges to receive accelerated payments from insurance company sponsors of the products. An insider reported the allegations to Wells officials last September, they said.
Vorbeck, who like Dunnuck is a certified financial planner, declined to comment, aside from categorically denying allegations about abusing annuity processes. Calls to their number still identify Bison during hold periods as being affiliated with Wells.
Prior to the move, Bison’s website listed four offices in Indiana (Lafayette, Mishawaka, Terre Haute and Valparaiso), one in Florida (Melbourne), one in Ohio (Cincinnati) and two in Michigan (Kalamazoo and Lansing).
Michael Taaffe, a Sarasota, Florida, employment lawyer who often represents brokers and is working with some of the Ameriprise brokers, declined to comment.
An Ameriprise spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the firm’s decision to accept the team into their franchise group.
A spokeswoman at Wells Fargo declined to comment.
The new regulatory disclosures on the Bison principals follow a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority enforcement complaint published on Monday against a separate Ameriprise practice.
The self-regulator charged Kim Dee Isaacson in Midvale, Utah, with overstating the size of a client’s accounts by as much as $3.1 million.
Last June, Isaacson and Morgan Stanley, his previous employer, were ordered to pay $3.6 million to the same client.
Isaacson affiliated with Ameriprise in February 2014, after resigning that month from Morgan Stanley as he was being investigated for giving the client inaccurate information about account performance, according to his BrokerCheck history. Ameriprise discharged him in July 2017 after he consented to a permanent bar from the securities industry imposed by Finra.
—Mason Braswell contributed to this report.