All done outside of probate, financial adviser Lawrence J. Mieras, Jr. received $500,000 from two annuities owned by his deceased client, Addie Belle Jones. The two variable annuities paid Mr. Mieras the sums outside of her probate. Not bad work if you can get it. A state investigator concluded that Mr. Mieras acted unethically and violated Maryland’s insurance law with the payments. An arbitration panel found that Mr. Mieras firm not only failed to supervise him adequately but also was not licensed properly for conducting operations in the state.
Addie Belle had left the funds to Mr. Mieras in her 2014 will. Just before she died she signed documents that permitted him to receive it independent of her estate.
Interestingly, Finra (the private financial oversight organization) took the time to take Mr. Mieras and his firm to task with words but then declined to take any disciplinary action, noting that the matters were regulatory issues to be handled by the state. However, the state disagreed with the investigator’s findings, concluding there had been no legal or regulatory violations. The investigator was then fired because his agency was “going in a different direction.”
So, to sum things up: Mr. Mieras walks away in good standing, with $500,000 in cash, and he and his firm are still operating in Maryland. The Maryland Insurance Administration stands by its decision, noting that no laws were violated.
They may be correct about the laws, but the ethical issues are another matter. Professions should be self-policing, but they are, from CPAs to lawyers to financial advisers to physicians, notoriously lacking backbone. However, it looks as if they have fallen between the Finra and Maryland Insurance Administration cracks. Taking toes right up to the line and a half a mil ends up in the hands of a widow’s financial adviser. Not exactly a positive comment on the roles and actions of financial advisers. These kinds of actions lead to the types of regulations about which the members of the profession will weep, wail, and gnash their teeth. They will groan about the heavy-handed regulators when they themselves brought on the legal and regulatory controls because they could not self-police.