A Stunning Tale of the Financial Adviser Who Received $500,000 From a Client After Her Death

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 now 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 adviser. 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 brought on the legal and regulatory controls because they could not self-police.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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