Financial professionals are usually on the forefront of efforts to protect older Americans from financial fraud and elder abuse. They are often the first to spot unusual bank activity or suspicious withdrawals. Not Shelby Lee Bowles, however. Bowles was a stockbroker who until his termination in 2012, worked for Securities Service Network. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Bowles managed to convince one of his customers to name him as the sole beneficiary under her will, executor, trustee and power of attorney. The woman’s trust was worth more than $1 million.
Generally, financial professionals should never be both the trustee and a beneficiary. Lawyers are prohibited from doing and courts frown on other financial professionals who do so. Depending on where the person making the will resides, the practice may be outlawed in some locales.
We don’t know whether Bowles was a friend or family member of the deceased millionaire. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for his actions. We think, however, that he is just a leech.
FINRA doesn’t have the ability to enforce state laws regarding elder abuse, wills and estates. It does have the authority, however, to discipline member firms and stockbrokers that violate the exchange rules and securities laws. One of those requirements is that brokers tell their employer about all business activities and that they cooperate in investigations. FINRA says Bowles did neither.
Bowles was suspended from the securities industry for 10 months for not telling his employer that he was acting as a trustee and executor for one of his clients. Once FINRA got wind of the problem, they sent him letters in April, July and September of this year seeking his cooperation in an investigation. Apparently he ignored those letters and didn’t cooperate.
We suspect that Bowles didn’t cooperate for fear of being sued by family members of the deceased client.
Stockbrokers have a duty to look after the financial well being of their clients. Naming themselves the sole beneficiary smacks of elder abuse. Even if that was truly the wish of the customer, the best practice is to decline such a gift. We have no way of knowing if the woman making the will suffered from diminished capacity or was very lonely. We fully expect that Bowles’ brokerage firm would have prohibited him from being named an executor, trustee, power of attorney and beneficiary of a client. That’s probably why he didn’t tell them even though he was required to do so.
Financial professionals are humans. Stockbrokers, lawyers, investment advisers and bankers can all succumb to financial temptation and commit fraud. Fortunately, the firms that employ these people can often be held responsible for any losses.
It’s not just financial professionals that commit elder financial abuse. Often it is a caregiver or family member that coerces an elderly person to change their will. Often we see forged wills.
If you or a loved one is the victim of undue influence, a forged will or fraud, give us a call. We generally accept cases in which the loss exceeds $100,000. Cases are accepted in many jurisdictions. Cases against stockbrokers are accepted in any jurisdiction.
For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries answered within 24 hours and are protected by the attorney – client privilege. Most cases are handled on a contingent fee basis meaning no fee unless we win.
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Tagged: stockbroker fraud, elder abuse, forged will, elder financial abuse, senior fraud