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SEC charges four brokers with allegedly fleecing federal government retirees
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged four former Atlanta-area brokers - Christopher S. Laws, Jonathan D. Cooke, Danny S. Hood, and Brandon P. Long - on Monday with fraud, for allegedly fooling federal employees into rolling over their federal Thrift Savings Plan or TSP retirement accounts into higher-fee, variable annuity products. According to the SEC, the Atlanta firm - Federal Employee Benefits Counselors -targeted federal employees nearing retirement that held significant amounts in the TSP. The SEC alleges the brokers misled investors about the associated fees and guaranteed investment returns in the recommended variable annuity investment and encouraged the employees to believe the firm was affiliated with or approved by the federal government. The brokers allegedly collectively earned approximately $1.7 million in commissions on sales of approximately 200 variable annuities with a total face value of approximately $40 million to federal employees, who rolled over funds from their TSP accounts to fund the investments. The SEC is seeking disgorgement of the alleged illegal gains plus interest and penalties and permanent injunctions. The SEC issued an investor alert to remind federal employees that the TSP will never request sensitive personal information directly and does not authorize third parties to provide counseling or investment-related services.
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Illinois budget tension aggravated by capitol lockdown due to suspicious substance
Thursday's special Illinois House session, where members were to vote on an override of Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the tax hike and spending plan that could end the state's two-plus years without a budget, has hit a snag. The capitol was in lockdown and the vote delayed after a suspicious substance was reported found near Rauner's office, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets reported. The Democrat-controlled House faces a close vote to override the veto and will need nearly all of the handful of Republicans who sided with the Democrats on budget passage to show up and vote to strike down the veto. It has taken a few days to gather the legislators back in the capitol. The state continues to risk becoming the first with a junk credit rating. S&P currently places it one step above junk. Moody's this week said it's continuing to review the state's current Baa3 rating for a possible downgrade despite "legislative progress towards a fiscal recovery plan based on permanent income tax rate increases." Even if the House matches Senate action in overriding the governor's veto, there's "the likelihood of further deterioration in Illinois's most pressing credit challenges: its severely underfunded pensions and a backlog of unpaid bills, which has doubled during the past year," Moody's said.Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
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