Monday, July 6, 2015

No. 108: Guardian Life's Rectification of an Unsuitable Rollover—An Update

In No. 104R posted June 22, 2015, I discussed an unsuitable rollover of a client's retirement accumulation at College Retirement Equities Fund (CREF) into an individual retirement account containing a variable annuity issued by a subsidiary of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. Guardian initially rejected the client's complaint, but later resolved the complaint to the client's satisfaction. This is an update on the case.

The client was Beatrice (not her real name). She was aged 78 at the time of the rollover. Edgar Montenegro (CRD# 4768006), a registered representative of Park Avenue Securities, a Guardian subsidiary, sold Beatrice on the idea of using $200,000 of her $325,000 CREF accumulation to buy the annuity from Guardian Insurance & Annuity Company, another Guardian subsidiary. However, through what has been referred to as "a mistake in the purchase paperwork," the entire $325,000 accumulation was rolled into the annuity. Consequently Beatrice had to take withdrawals from the annuity to meet required minimum distributions, thereby forfeiting an enhanced lifetime guarantee. The guarantee was an annuity benefit for which she had paid.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) shows "BrokerCheck Reports" on its website ( The BrokerCheck report on Montenegro originally said the complaint was denied. Although reports do not identify cases by the names of clients, in this instance the case was identifiable from the facts shown in the report.

The Updated BrokerCheck Report
I saw the updated BrokerCheck report on June 30. It shows a "status" of "settled," a "status date" of June 10, 2015, a "settlement amount" of $342,902.18, and an "individual contribution amount" [presumably the amount contributed to the settlement by Montenegro] of zero. The "broker statement" in the updated report reads:
A firm affiliate [presumably Guardian Insurance & Annuity Company] entered into a confidential settlement with the customer without the firm [presumably Park Avenue Securities] or the firm affiliate admitting liability.
The "employment history" section of the updated BrokerCheck report says Montenegro is employed by Park Avenue Securities from June 2011 to "Present." However, the report contains this note:
Please note that the broker is required to provide this information only while registered with FINRA or a national securities exchange and the information is not updated via Form U4 after the broker ceases to be registered. Therefore, an employment end date of "Present" may not reflect the broker's current employment status.
I asked Jeanette Volpi, a Guardian spokeswoman, whether Montenegro is currently employed by Park Avenue Securities. In her prompt response, she said Montenegro is currently employed by Park Avenue Securities.

General Observations
Guardian's settlement with Beatrice could have been for the rollover amount of $325,000 without a surrender charge. However, the settlement amount shown in the updated BrokerCheck report suggests that the settlement was for the full current value of Beatrice's account without a surrender charge. Although it is regrettable that Guardian initially rejected Beatrice's complaint, I am favorably impressed by, and commend the company for, the manner in which the company handled the complaint in the end.