Subpar tax advice from advisors can lead to big rewards for clients — but not the kind of rewards you want them to reap.
In a recent FINRA case, an elderly woman and her daughter were awarded more than $50,000 for what an arbitrator deemed insufficient advice regarding the tax consequences of an IRA distribution.
The payment was awarded even though the claimants had only suffered an increase in taxes of about $9,000 as a result of the total distribution of a roughly $30,000 IRA CD, and despite the fact that no investment had been purchased from the advisor in question.
How did this happen?
Marilyn Green, the elderly woman in question, owned a CD in an IRA that was held with Bank United. As Marilyn was already in her 80s and suffering from dementia and depression, her financial affairs were largely tended to by her daughter, Melissa Green, who had been granted power of attorney.
Sometime close to the CD’s maturity date, Melissa Green discussed her mother’s CD with Samuel Izaguirre, a Fort Lauderdale-based registered representative of LPL Financial. LPL and Izaguirre had entered into an agreement with Bank United to provide investment advice and brokerage services to its clientele.
During Melissa’s conversation with Izaguirre, he recommended that Melissa withdraw the approximately $30,000 held in the maturing IRA CD and place the funds in a personal checking account. He did not provide any information with respect to the potential tax consequences of such a transaction.
Following Izaguirre’s advice, in August of 2014 Melissa closed the IRA CD and transferred the funds to her mother’s personal checking account.
The following year, when Melissa visited her mother’s tax preparer to complete her 2014 return, she learned that the $30,000 IRA distribution resulted in roughly $9,000 of additional income taxes. Melissa was not happy, and the Greens filed a complaint that ultimately made its way to a FINRA arbitrator.