Forty years of work and one million dollars in savings, those are the lifetime accumulations for many of us when we retire, some of us have more, some of us have less. But one million can become zero in an instant with one innocent error–trusting the wrong person to invest your money.
In his new book, The Investor Protector, David Meyer shares his stories of good people who trusted too much and endured unthinkable loss. These are stories of hard-earned success, unbelievable manipulation, changing times, and avenging triumph.
You’ll learn not only how David has helped thousands of people regain their savings and peace of mind, but what you could do to protect yourself and those you love. The future looks as bright as you planned it.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey Listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with David Meyer, author of The Investor Protector: Stories of Triumph over Financial Advisors Who Lie, Cheat, and Steal. David, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
David Meyer: Happy to be here, thank you.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick this off, can you give us a rundown of your professional background?
David Meyer: Sure, the law firm that I own is called Meyer Wilson and I’ve been a lawyer for about 25 years. For most of those about 23 years, I represent individual investors who have claims against financial advisors who lie, cheat, and steal, which is how I got the book title. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I do it all over the country. I’ve handled over a thousand individual cases against financial advisors and recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for my clients.
Drew Appelbaum: Thousands of cases, you clearly been in the industry, you’ve seen some things, but why was now the time to share these stories in your book? Was there something that was really inspiring out there for you? Did you have an “aha moment?”
Devastating Financial Losses
David Meyer: The book took 18 months to write but I feel like it was 25 years in the making. I wrote the book so fewer people would ever need to hire an investment fraud lawyer like me. I actually wrote it to try to make my job obsolete.
I know that sounds interesting or odd but when a client is referred to me for help for an investment loss case, they’ve already suffered a devastating financial loss. My job, my day job, is to fight to recover their life savings that were lost at the hands of a bad broker. It’s rewarding to fix the problems and recover my client’s life’s savings but you know what would be even better?
This is what is the whole purpose of my book, it would be better if I could help retirement savers before they are entangled with a bad financial advisor. I wrote the book to help prevent devastating financial loss before it happens.
I fix the problem for cases that are referred to me. With this book, I try to prevent the problems. I honestly believe that if retirement savers and individual investors read this book and follow the basic steps I outline in the book, the chances that they will ever need to hire an investment fraud lawyer will be reduced substantially, and that’s why I wrote the book. It’s body armor for retirement savers.
Drew Appelbaum: When you said, “Okay, I’m going to put this in book form,” sometimes you’ll have the idea of the book rattling around in your head, but during the writing process–I know you have a ton of experience but sometimes by digging deeper to some of the subjects, you will come to some major breakthroughs and learnings. Did you have any of these breakthroughs or learnings during your writing journey?
David Meyer: Well, the way I started it was to gather the lawyers and the staff in my office and say, “Let’s talk about some of the stories that were, on one hand, most devastating in terms of the financial loss suffered by the clients, but also the most rewarding in terms of the client’s ability to overcome the unthinkable financial loss and also, what was most rewarding to us.”
To me, what I got most out of this book was just being able to remember the cases we’ve handled over the last 25 years and what we’ve been able to do, the help we’ve been able to provide our clients. Then really, as the book came together, I was just more convinced of how helpful this book can be to people before they even hire a broker.
They would hopefully never need anyone like me. So, it began as a journey to share the experiences of cases I’ve handled and really turned into what I refer to as body armor–that this is, this book can really prevent investment fraud from happening. It’s not a handbook or a reference guide because those are boring.
I believe we learn best through experience sharing, not by listening to lectures, and that’s what this book is full of is my experiences as an investment fraud lawyer, representing the clients that I represented over the last 25 years.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you sat down to write the book, who in your mind were you writing this book for? When you talk about investors like you were just talking about, do you mean millionaires, can someone who invested $20,000 or has a life savings of $20,000 still have takeaways from the book?
David Meyer: Yes, anyone who is saving money and I refer to them as retirement savers, whether you’re 20, 30, 40, 60, 80, if you’re saving money with the idea that eventually, there will be a time when you’re going to move from the income earning stage to the spending stage, then that’s the time in your life when you’re going to need your nest egg, your life savings to be there for you.
I think primarily, as we age and we’re in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, we tend to think about that more. The idea is that, as people are approaching retirement and gaining assets, and whether that’s 100,000 or 500,000 or 20 million, it doesn’t matter, the tools that I talk about in this book will help anybody who is saving money for retirement and is considering seeking the advice of a financial professional to help them manage their life savings.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s dive into the book a little bit, let’s maybe set a base right here. You are an investment fraud lawyer, so why would someone need an investment fraud lawyer, and what’s happening in the world that your position exists?
David Meyer: Well, the core of these cases is a breaking of trust. We all trust people in our lives to help us navigate the complexities of daily life. We go to our doctor and if our doctor does an examination and recommends medicine or a knee replacement, we generally follow the advice of professionals who are experts in their area.
That might be an accountant, whatever it is, we do that all the time because life is complicated, and the investment world is no different. As we save money and build up assets, then most of us will ultimately look to get some professional guidance because understanding investments is a scenario that requires expertise and training, and education.
Most of us are experts in whatever it is we do, we focus on other things. And as approach retirement, we want to shift from working, to whether it’s traveling, retiring, being with families, most of us don’t have the interest or the expertise or the time or the inclination to be able to focus on how to manage our life savings.
There’s a need for us to rely on experts. You’ve got a big division of expertise between the typical individual investor who saved money for their entire life, and the expert over here. With money, we all treat it differently but once we find somebody that we trust, then we often give them access to our money and they control where our money is invested.
Look, for the most part, most financial advisors in this country do appropriate jobs and comply with their obligations and there’s not a problem most of the time. But with over a million advisors in this country, problems would just with a small minority of them. Unfortunately, they can create devastating loss and that’s where I come in when someone has trusted the wrong person, and something’s gone wrong.
The broker or the advisor either lied, cheated, or stole, and then as a result, my clients have suffered significant losses as a result of the misconduct of their advisor. There is a legal process available to pursue those claims.
Obviously, my preference in writing this book would be for people to minimize the chance that they’re in that situation, but unfortunately, bad things happen to good people and although there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of being in that situation, nobody can avoid it 100%. In the unfortunate situation when that happens, there are lawyers like me that can step in and help.
A Problem that Can Happen to Anyone
Drew Appelbaum: Now, is this happening on the local level or is this happening at national banks and big-name investment firms when financial advisors involve themselves in fraud?
David Meyer: That’s a great question. The answer is, I’ve represented investors against advisors and brokers and firms of all sizes all over the country. We have a national practice, we have offices throughout the country, and I represented investors from just about every state over the last 25 years. We’ve had many cases against the large brokerage firms and many cases against smaller brokerage firms, and investment advisors.
Unfortunately, the problem can happen in any location with any type of firm, and there are some tips in this book that can by focusing on where you invest your money, who you hire, the type of firm with which they’re affiliated, those are all things that if some additional time is taken on the frontend, you can reduce your chance of having a problem. Unfortunately, there’s no way, there’s no specific type of firm that I could point anyone to that would guarantee they wouldn’t have a problem.
Drew Appelbaum: You just said it’s widespread throughout big banks, small banks, and every financial institution. Why don’t we hear more about these stories and why does it continually happen?
David Meyer: Well, it happens because greed and fraud have been a part of our human nature forever. It goes back to the beginning of time, and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. I mean, there is a tremendous amount of regulation in this industry, and the larger brokerage firms and banks have gotten better. I mean, it is much better now than it was 20 years ago.
It is still a huge problem. As we age as a country, this financial exploitation of seniors is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Because as a country, we’re getting older, and as we age, we tend to accumulate money, so it’s a target rich environment, unfortunately, and that allows the bad actors to get through.
Drew Appelbaum: Is there anything about how the financial industry is designed that allows for this?
David Meyer: Well, most folks who are saving for retirement don’t understand the structure of the financial services industry and I think that’s by design, it’s intentionally opaque. It’s very difficult to understand, really, are you working with a registered representative, are you working with an investment advisor? It’s complicated and then I go through in the book to try to explain that, but because it’s complicated by design, that creates some confusion up front because it is very hard to figure out sometimes the type of advisor you’re working with. Again, that takes some work on the front end.
Another reason why this doesn’t get a lot of press is because of just the nature of the situation. We’re dealing with personal private financial issues. An interesting analogy that I like to make is, for those of us who are in a car accident, let’s say we’re at a red light and we get rear ended and we suffer some injuries. It’s clearly the fault of somebody else, as a society we have no problem doing research, finding a lawyer to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver for damages suffered as a result of that negligence.
We don’t feel bad. We think, “Hey, I was injured, someone else caused it, there is a right course of action, there are lawyers available, I’m going to do that.” But what I found over the last 25 years is that when people suffer financial harm as a result of the misconduct of others, they internalize it. They’re embarrassed, it’s private, it’s money, they tend to blame themselves. We don’t see that, in my experience, we don’t see that in other areas.
I believe that in the majority of cases, the majority of the situations where somebody has suffered financial loss as a result of the misconduct of the adviser, most cases never get pursued. I believe a lot of it is for the reason I just explained, the folks internalized it. Generally, they’re going to be older, maybe retired, elderly, they may be living alone. They may be suffering some cognitive decline, they’re going to be embarrassed, they’ve got a lot of pride. People treat money differently than they do other things, and I think as a result, that’s why a lot of this never even gets pursued.
Also, and most people don’t know this but when you open up an account with a broker’s firm, and this is any brokerage firm in the country and this has happened since 1980, there are new account documents that you sign, and on the back of page eight in small print that nobody reads, there is a provision where you agree by opening your account that if there is ever any dispute, you agree to waive your right to trial and to pursue a claim in mandatory binding arbitration.
Cases against brokerage firms don’t go to court. You don’t see that they’re not publicly filed in court, so the press doesn’t see them, it doesn’t get out. They’re filed in arbitration that’s administered by an organization called The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is known as FINRA, and they administer the dispute resolution program. That’s a lot of what we do. We’re FINRA arbitration lawyers, but to answer your question it’s private and it doesn’t get the public attention. That’s another reason.
Those two reasons in my opinion are why this doesn’t get a lot of attention and because it doesn’t get a lot of attention that just allows it to breed more because it is not getting the attention it deserves, in my opinion.
First Steps to Take
Drew Appelbaum: Anyone who’s listening, you’ve clearly raised their antennas for anyone who’s looking to invest especially with a financial advisor. What do you suggest that listeners and even myself look out for when looking for a new financial adviser?
David Meyer: There are some simple steps you can take. Again, this in my heart that if you follow the steps in this book and we’ll go through a couple of the items here, the chance that you’ll ever need to hire someone like me will go down tremendously. The first step, you can actually do in your pajamas sitting on your couch, and you can do this for your parents, your aunts, your uncles and if you are a lawyer listening, you can do this for your clients.
If you are an honest financial adviser, you could recommend that other folks you’re talking to can do this as well, and that’s look up your broker. There is a process in this industry that doesn’t exist as far as I know in any other profession. You can’t look up as far as I know a lawyer or a doctor and see if there have been prior complaints or any regulatory problems or if they’ve had any financial problems like bankruptcy, but you can do that for brokers.
You can go to brokercheck.org. It’s free, it’s available online, you can do it in your pajamas from your couch. You type in your broker, your location, and then you can pull up the regulatory record of that broker. You can see if they’ve had any prior customer complaints, any regulatory problems if they’ve been in any employment issues. Now fair warning, it’s not 100% accurate. There is a process where brokers can go through to erase these regulatory records.
I’m fighting hard with the SCC and Congress and then lobbying efforts to try to stop that from happening, but right now, it is happening. There are instances where these records get wiped clean improperly, in my opinion, so it is not 100% perfect but brokercheck.org allows you to look up your broker. Whether it’s a broker or an investment adviser, that’s the first place to start. I honestly believe that if everyone did this before hiring their broker, particularly if we could fix this and make it more accurate and include all the complaints, then I would have 50% fewer cases come in my door and that would be wonderful.
That’s super easy to do and it’s free and you could do it over and over again. If you pull up your broker and you see they’ve got three customer complaints, I would run. I think it is something like less than 5% of the brokers have more than one customer complain and again, that’s easy to do. It’s free and you could do it over and over and I would certainly recommend you do that, and all of your listeners do that. If they are working with their broker now, go do it right now.
Let me tell you a funny story, this was just yesterday. My book comes out June 8th but I had some early release copies. My neighbor stopped over and she asked to read a copy and I just heard yesterday, my wife called to tell me here at the office that my neighbor went home, she read the book cover to cover and she called her husband and said, “Hey, we need to look up our broker.” They used the tips in the book, they looked up their broker, they saw something that was concerning to them, and so they fired the broker on the spot and hired a new one.
I don’t know that I prevented something potentially bad from happening there, but this is someone who is a smart, sophisticated educated person who had worked with an adviser for a long time. Neither she nor her husband had any idea that this was available, and because she read in my book, she did it and they changed brokers. How wonderful is that resource?
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s talk about the flip side of that. Let’s say no one heeds your warning and you might need an investment fraud lawyer. Should you need it, can you explain some of the criteria that you would evaluate and maybe select the best investment fraud lawyer?
David Meyer: Yeah, sure. It’s important to understand that all these steps in the front end are great and they’re helpful and they will reduce your chance, but there is no guarantee. Even folks that do everything right and everything they could possibly do, unfortunately, these things can still happen. There is still no reason they should be shameful or scared or nervous or reluctant to pursue their rights. If they have a problem and they think it was caused by misconduct–again, something else about this book, a lot of people will not even realize something is going on because they don’t completely understand their statements. They don’t recognize red flags.
So, in this book, I go through a lot of red flags that will help people and their trusted advisers and their family members to look at what they have, and one, maybe make sure nothing is wrong or two, identify some potential problems. But if they believe there is a problem, they could reach out, and they need to go to somebody who’s been doing this work for a long time.
You don’t go to a knee doctor if you need your shoulder fixed. You go to this specific doctor that has expertise in that area, and the same thing for a lawyer. You don’t go to a probate lawyer if you have an investment fraud case, and someone wouldn’t call me for a probate case because that’s not what I do. You need to find a lawyer who focuses on this particular area, investment fraud cases, and they need to have done it for a long time. It takes a long time to become really good and effective in this area because it’s complicated.
It’s complex and there’s a lot of relationships to develop with the arbitrators, opposing council experts, so somebody that does this work, has been doing it for a long time but most importantly, has a large team with them. I always say that going up against the brokerage is fighting a war. The brokerage industry has all the money it has because they don’t give it out easily. They’re not just going to hand over money, you can’t just write a letter or file a civil complaint and get your money back.
It’s a battle and you need an army to win the war. My first case was a big case. It ended up with a $260 million class session jury verdict. I filed that when I was 29 years old, so I learned early. That was a seven-year battle. I learned that it took an army to win these cases, so we’ve built up, we have a team of lawyers, we have paralegals and analysts and access to the right experts, and you can’t see that on a website.
Anybody can put a website and some fancy pictures and say, “Hey, we’re the best firm for you.” So, you have to peel back that homepage and really dive in. I go through some issues to spot in the book to really make sure that you don’t get taken advantage of twice. If you are in this situation, you’ve had your trust broken once, you’d be very, very careful that it doesn’t happen again.
Tools for Investors
Drew Appelbaum: Now, besides the book, do you offer any other resources to readers and listeners?
David Meyer: Well, the book is a great place to start. We also have a lot of information like this on our website. Our firm’s website is investorclaims.com. There are dozens of instructional videos, topical videos about the different types of investment fraud, the types of claims, and we have videos about our lawyers and our staff. If they even have questions about particular investments, it’s likely we’ve got a video about that.
For example, you got questions about a variable annuity, we have variable annuity videos and the ETFs. There are all kinds of subject matter videos that we have on our website. It’s investorclaims.com and that’s a great place to learn about investments, other types of claims.
Drew Appelbaum: Well David, we just touched on the surface of the book here, but I wanted to say that writing a book that’s going to help educate investors to start looking at their finances at all levels is no small feat, so congratulations on having your book published.
David Meyer: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.
Drew Appelbaum: I do have one question left, it is the hot seat question. If readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
David Meyer: Spend a few extra minutes on the front end before you hire an advisor and that effort will be very well rewarded for you, and significantly reduce the chance that you’ll ever need someone like me.
Drew Appelbaum: David, this has been a pleasure and I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called The Investor Protector and you can find it on Amazon. David, besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
David Meyer: Again, our website is investorclaims.com and I can always be reached via email. Again, my name of course is David Meyer, my email is [email protected].
Drew Appelbaum: Well David, thank you so much for coming on the show today and best of luck with your new book.
David Meyer: Thank you very much.