Imagine this happening to you: After scrimping and saving for years to ensure a secure retirement, you discover your entire nest egg has completely disappeared at the hands of swindlers. Now take it a step further. Imagine discovering that because of the large amount of time it would take for Columbus lawyers to pursue a claim, you can’t even afford legal action to try to recoup your life savings.
Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? Yet these were real events faced by some Ohioans unlucky enough to trust their retirement funds to two crooks masquerading as investment advisors. Fortunately, through a combination of creativity and the willingness to chase down answers to tough questions, we were able to obtain not only justice for these victims, but something equally important—a secure future.
Their life savings gone
It all started when two Columbus, Ohio, financial planners working in association with a large, reputable brokerage firm persuaded these investors to spend their money buying a little known insurance-based investment known as a viatical. Little did the investors know that the promissory notes they were issued were worthless, because the financial planners were actually embezzling the investment money.
Eventually, the theft was discovered and the financial planners apprehended. The ringleader went to prison; the other lost his investment planning license. But the investors they bilked—the actual victims of their crime—were left high and dry. And because the financial planners had already spent the money and were in collections, they were essentially judgment-proof for such a high liability. On the surface, there appeared to be no way for the victims to obtain recompense.
Columbus lawyers who can help
When a few of the investors initially asked for our help, we realized it would take an extraordinary amount of time and effort to properly handle their case, perhaps prohibitively in terms of the fees we would need to charge. So we got creative and advised them of another option. If they could get as many of the victims in on the case as possible, we could pursue their case as a mass group, which would allow them to divide the cost.
In addition to maximizing their potential recovery, this would also let us help other victims who’d given up pursuing reimbursement, either because they felt they couldn’t afford it or because they saw no way of securing a meaningful claim against the broke financial planners.
We weren’t able to solicit and contact the other victims directly, but those initial investors got the word out. When we finally offered an evening for them all to come down and hear about our strategy for helping them, virtually everyone there—about two dozen people—signed up as clients. As the case proceeded, we set up regular biweekly group conference calls so our clients could keep updated on everything that was going on.
Digging to find the responsible party
While representing more victims allowed all parties to pursue their case affordably, the primary challenge remained: finding a means of recovery for these people. If the primary defendants couldn’t compensate them, who could? Was there anyone else responsible?
This is where we started digging deep and asking tough questions. And it was the answers to those questions that revealed another responsible party: the brokerage firm the financial planners worked with.
First, we asked, “How were the planners able to get away with what they did?” The answer was that they worked with the reputable brokerage firm. Our clients had believed that’s who the planners were acting through.
That led to other questions. “Why weren’t they being watched more closely?” and “Did the brokerage firm have any legal responsibility for this?”
More digging and research revealed the answers. Yes, the brokerage firm did share in the responsibility. Our clients had believed the firm supported the financial advisors. Even though the advisors weren’t true employees of the firm, the advisors advertised that they were affiliated with the firm, and the firm allowed that. And the advisors made the brokerage firm a lot of money over the years. Because of all this, a legal doctrine called apparent authority meant that the firm was responsible for the acts of those two advisors.
In the end, by asking the right questions and pursuing where the answers led, we were able to settle the case and recover the vast majority of the money our clients had lost.
Regular people get their futures back
The settlement was a big deal for our clients. After all, these victims weren’t wealthy investors who knowingly took on risky investments. These were ordinary people. They were business owners and folks working for the state of Ohio. They were people who had worked hard over the years to secure their financial futures. And they were people who had unwittingly invested their entire life savings in the financial planners’ scheme.
Can you imagine the trauma of losing all that you had saved after 30 or 40 years of hard work? Of having to cancel your retirement dreams of traveling or spending more time with your family? Or being unable to send your kids to college? Not to mention the stress of suddenly not knowing how you’re going to take care of yourself in your senior years? That’s what these people had to overcome, and the settlement helped them do it.
Making a difference, now and in the future
As Columbus lawyers, we really saw the power of what we accomplished for our clients when some of them were literally in tears as they came to our office to pick up their check. They’d been facing the prospect of retiring without their life savings, and now those funds had largely been restored.
Needless to say, it was incredibly fulfilling knowing we could make such a profound difference in these people’s lives. Even more so knowing that by pursuing the claim as a mass group, we were able to recover 80 to 90 percent of what they had lost.
It’s an interesting profession we’re in—helping victims find justice, providing support, helping them get their lives moving forward again, and then visiting with them and their families afterward as they overcome their adversities and learn to thrive once more.
Could there possibly be a better occupation in the world?
The outcome of any client’s case will depend on the particular legal and factual circumstances of the case.