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Retirement Classes Actually Sales Pitches, SEC Charges

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Every “free lunch” retirement seminar reviewed recently by federal and state examiners was really a sales presentation, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The firms that sponsored the seminars let the presenters provide misleading, exaggerated or inaccurate investment information at 59% of the 110 seminars analyzed, SEC officials report in a discussion of the review.

The presenters promoted 50% of the seminars with ads featuring exaggerated or deceptive advertising claims, such as, “Immediately add $100,000 to your net worth,” officials report.

About 13% of the seminars appeared to be fraudulent, and 23% made what may have been unsuitable recommendations, such as recommendations that investors who would soon need cash shift money into illiquid investments.

SEC officials are urging financial firms to explain that free-lunch seminars are designed to sell financial products, and that the sponsors might have a financial interest in the sale of the products being presented.