Wells Fargo Expels Big Indie Team for Alleged Annuity Practices
(Clarifies numbers of brokers who left Bison, and their locations, in fifth and sixth paragraphs.)
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 franchise 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 retain or woo each other’s clients.
As k-tcc reported last week, some brokers have left the firm. They include two brokers comprising Bison’s 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 annuity sponsors. 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 his previous employer Morgan Stanley were ordered to pay $3.6 million to the same client. Isaacson has been affiliated with Ameriprise, which was not named in either complaint, since February 2014, the same month he resigned from Morgan Stanley, according to BrokerCheck.
He is still affiliated with Ameriprise, according to his BrokerCheck report.
—Mason Braswell contributed to this report.