NU Online News Service, Jan. 12, 2004, 4:23 p.m. EST – The NASD, Washington, has announced more than 75 disciplinary actions related to variable annuity sales since the beginning of 2001, according to NASD Vice Chairman Mary Schapiro.[@@]

“Given the popularity of this product, we will continue to focus examination and investigative resources on a wide range of variable annuity-related sales practices,” Schapiro says in a statement issued in connection with the NASD’s latest disciplinary action.

In the latest action, the NASD has barred John Steven Blount, a Lake Charles, La., advisor, from association with any NASD-regulated securities firm and ordered him to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution plus interest to 10 customers. The NASD has accused the advisor of making about $6 million in unsuitable sales of variable annuities and mutual funds.

The NASD says the advisor made recommendations that exposed older, conservative investors to products that carried excessive market risk, lacked sufficient liquidity and failed to address the customers’ needs for current income.

The NASD says the advisor recommended that a 62-year-old retiree who expected to need $50,000 in a few months put most of his liquid assets in a VA contract that imposed surrender charges on early withdrawals.

Blount does not appear to have a directory listing in the Lake Charles area and could not immediately be reached for comment.