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SEC Puts VAs On Summit Agenda

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says it will be discussing its concerns about variable annuities Monday during a “seniors summit.”

Most of the event, which will include a panel discussion, will focus on outright scams, such as efforts to sell fake promissory notes and fake charity annuity giving programs, but the program also will deal with sales of legitimate products, such as variable annuities, to older consumers who should not own those products, officials say.

Although variable annuities “are legitimate investments, regulators are concerned about their popularity in the sales community,” officials say in a backgrounder on elder fraud.

“Commissions to those who sell variable annuities are very high, which provides incentive for sellers to engage in inappropriate sales,” officials say. “Variable annuities are only suitable for a very small percentage of the investing public and generally are not appropriate for most seniors.”

Steep penalties for early withdrawals make variable annuities unsuitable for short-term investors, officials say.

SEC officials also say they will talk about efforts to review “free lunch” sales seminar programs in Florida.

The seminar exams will focus on whether broker-dealers and investment advisors in Florida “are the subject of customer complaints relating to sales seminars, sales of unsuitable recommendations in securities and/or abusive or fraudulent sales tactics,” officials say. “Regulators will also seek to identify firms that often sponsor sales seminars.”

Regulators will be looking for fraudulent sales literature and evidence of supervisory lapses, officials say.