Senior woman (Photo: Thinkstock)

An insurance salesman and his firm in Massachusetts have been charged with persuading seniors to liquidate their assets to buy an annuity that paid the salesman commissions, according to William F. Galvin, Massachusetts’ top securities regulator. Ryan P. Skinner and his company, Summit Financial Partners, made millions of dollars in the scheme, Galvin’s complaint states.

Although licensed with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, Skinner, whose firm is based in Woburn, Massachusetts, is not a registered investment advisor, although he advertises himself as a “retirement specialist,” according to the administrative complaint filed by Galvin’s securities division.

Skinner was registered with FINRA between 2002 and 2008 with six different broker-dealers, according to the complaint. In 2017, FINRA fined him $2,500 for violations of Rule 8210 (providing documents) and Rule 2010 (high standards). He also was suspended for six months.

Acting as an unregistered investment advisor, the complaint states, during the period from January 2015 to August 2019, Skinner would hold “free lunch” workshops and then meet with attendees one on one to persuade them to “liquidate securities from their retirement investment accounts to purchase fixed indexed annuities. In many instances, Skinner recommends that prospective clients surrender exiting annuities incurring significant penalties. In some cases, Skinner also recommends that client or prospective client’s entire life savings consist of annuities sold through him.”

Of Skinner’s 158 Massachusetts clients, at least 128 were sold the same annuity through the same insurance company, in which Skinner and his firm earned a 7% commission for each, resulting in more than $4 million in commissions generated by the sales, the complaint states.

Investors have “expressed regret over the purchases,” according to the complaint, with one stating that Skinner stopped responding to phone calls asking about annuity costs that weren’t disclosed previously.

The Securities Division is seeking an order for Skinner and his firm to cease and desist, disgorge all profits from the scheme and provide restitution for harmed investors. It also seeks to impose fines and to bar Skinner and Summit from advising Massachusetts residents.

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