Place & Hanley is currently investigating claims against Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc. (CRD# 16164) regarding Bruce Albert Slater (CRD# 1547792) and Ridgewood Energy. The Law Offices of Place & Hanley, LLC recently filed a FINRA Arbitration claim on behalf of seven (7) investors in which it was alleged that financial advisor Bruce Slater negligently and/or fraudulently invested Claimants’ retirement funds in Ridgewood Energy alternative investments, among other unsuitable products.
Bruce Albert Slater (CRD#: 1547792), was an associated person of Transamerica, a FINRA member, from June 1997 to March 2016. According to FINRA Brokercheck, Bruce Slater is currently registered with Sagepoint Financial, Inc. (CRD#: 133763).
The seven (7) Claimants bringing a FINRA arbitration claim against Transamerica have alleged that Slater used his ties with the Claimants, and their implicit trust in him, to benefit himself by recommending investments which earned him the highest level of commissions despite their unsuitability for Claimants’ investment profiles. According to FINRA’s Brokercheck Bruce Slater has four other customer complaints currently on his CRD record; three of the most recent complaints appear to be related to the same investments at issue in the claims currently being asserted by Claimants in the pending FINRA arbitration.
Claimants allege that at the recommendation of Slater, Claimants invested over $2 million dollars in Ridgewood Energy Funds Q, S, T, U, V, W, X and Y, Ridgewood Energy A-1 Fund, Ridgewood Energy B-1 Fund, Ridgewood Energy Bluewater Oil Fund II and Ridgewater Energy Bluewater Oil Fund III. Claimants further allege that Slater recommended that Claimants invest over $3 million in a Transamerica Variable Annuities.
Claimants allege that in order to fund the Transamerica Variable Annuity purchases, Slater recommended that Claimants either surrender or rollover the annuities they owned to purchase the new Transamerica annuities. Claimants allege that by purchasing the new annuities, Claimants entered into new surrender periods which further complicated the fact that Slater over-allocated the Claimants’ portfolios into illiquid non-traded highly speculative alternative investments at a time when they were required to take required minimum distributions. Claimants have alleged that Slater failed to advise them of the costs and surrender charges associated with the purchase of the new Transamerica Variable Annuities. Claimants have further alleged that the only reason Slater recommended that the Claimants rollover their annuities was so that he could earn sizeable commissions.
Furthermore, Claimants allege that Slater invested the Claimants retirement funds in accounts with Community National Bank, American Funds, Fidelity, Franklin Square Alternative Investments, Inland/Wells REITS, Inland Western REIT, Inland Real Estate Corp. Inland Retail Real Estate, Retail Properties of America, Xenia Hotels and Resorts, Inc., Fidelity, Franklin Templeton, Oppenheimer, Allianz Funds and Pioneer Investments.
Claimants further allege that Slater was highly enthusiastic about oil and gas investments, and in particular Ridgewood Energy. Claimants allege that Slater often spoke to the Claimants in technical terms regarding the geopolitics of oil, oil exploration and drilling operations and he often bragged about how great the geologist and petroleum engineers at Ridgewood were. Claimants allege that Slater told the Claimants that they should buy as much Ridgewood as possible because the Ridgewood investments would provide so much income that they wouldn’t need to ever worry about money or any other investments again. Claimants allege that Slater told the Claimants that their investments in Ridgewood were a “guarantee”.
Ridgewood Energy Investments are private placements offered as Regulation D offerings. Simply stated, a private placement is an offering of a company’s securities that is not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is not offered to the public at large. The Ridgewood private placements are offered pursuant to Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933, which specifies the amount of money that can be raised and the type of investor that can be solicited to participate in the offering.
Claimants allege that they made various Ridgewood Energy investments between 2005 and 2014 based on the recommendations of Slater. Claimants allege that Slater’s fraudulent recommendations to invest in Ridgewood Energy were continuing in nature and that over the years, Claimants discussed their investments with Slater and he consistently misrepresented the investments and even recommended that Claimants invest more money in Ridgewood Energy.
Claimants allege that Slater made many material misrepresentations and omissions, including but not limited to the following allegations:
1. Claimants allege that Slater omitted to inform Claimants that the Ridgewood Funds were illiquid and that Claimants would not be able to sell if needed;
2. Claimants allege that Slater omitted to inform Claimants that the Ridgewood Funds were private placements and that the investments were not suitable for Claimants given their ages, retirement or near retirement status and investment goals;
3. Claimants allege that Slater misrepresented to Claimants on numerous occasions that their investments in Ridgewood were performing well and that they should invest additional funds in subsequent Ridgewood offerings;
4. Claimants allege that Slater failed to inform Claimants that he was actually selling them the Ridgewood Funds because they paid a very high commission and not because they were suitable investments. Indeed, through information and belief the Ridgewood Funds at issue charged upfront fees of 8-16%. In addition, through information and belief Ridgewood Energy charges a 2.5% annual management fee. Claimants allege that Slater failed to inform Claimants that he earned at least an 8% commission on the sale of the Ridgewood Funds; and
5. Claimants allege that Slater over-concentrated Claimants in illiquid private placements when investing a substantial portion of their net worth in Ridgewood Energy Funds.
Claimants are all in their retirement years. Claimants allege that due to the misconduct of Slater, Claimants are not able to enjoy the retirement they saved for. Claimants allege that Slater was aware that Claimants trusted him completely and he used his position of trust to defraud the Claimants and financially benefit himself.
As a result of the foregoing, Claimants have alleged that Respondent Transamerica is liable for common law fraud; breach of fiduciary duty; breach of contract; breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and negligence. Claimants further allege that Respondent breached FINRA rules, which are the basis for and the standard of care for FINRA member firms and their associated persons. Lastly, Claimants have alleged that Respondent Transamerica is liable under the doctrines of agency, respondeant superior, vicarious liability and was also negligent in the hiring, retention, and supervision of Bruce Slater.
If you were a client of Bruce Slater and/or Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc. and have suffered investment losses, please contact the Law Offices of Place & Hanley, LLC to explore your legal options. The Law Offices of Place & Hanley, LLC is dedicated to helping investors nationwide who have been victims of securities fraud. If you have lost money as a result of securities fraud, you may be able to recover your financial losses. Contact us today toll free at (866)318-4725 for a free initial consultation.