Back in January, we shared the story of Claire and Alex Moskvin. The West New York couple sold their home in 2006, with a profit of about $975,000. They were planning to buy a new home with the proceeds, but they wouldn’t be ready to buy for a year or two.
Until they were ready, they wanted the funds invested in a safe, interest-bearing account.
They took the funds to Eric Kleiner, a registered representative with Wachovia. (Wachovia was later purchased by Wells Fargo.) The Moskvins said they told Kleiner their timetable and goal for the money, and he invested on their behalf.
That was right before the stock market’s steep decline of 2008 and 2009.
Their account lost $226,865.86 between May 2008 and March 2009. Through that time, the Moskvins, who call themselves inexperienced investors, said they repeatedly questioned the broker about the investments, but they were always told not to worry.
The Moskvins took Kleiner and Wachovia/Wells Fargo to arbitration through the Financial Industry Regulatory Association, or FINRA, and they won. The award: $90,000 plus 4 percent annual interest retroactive to March 3, 2009, until the award is paid.
“We went to Eric Kleiner with next-to-no knowledge of financial investments and have emerged more knowledgeable than we ever expected to be on the subject,” Claire Moskvin said. “I also remind myself that we were more fortunate than some people who lost much of their retirement money as a result of Ponzi schemes and broker fraud.”
Despite the win, the Moskvins were frustrated with the arbitration process.
Claire Moskvin said arbitration is not for the faint-hearted, and she believes the process is stacked against the investor.
“(Arbitrators) don’t have to follow any rule of law or even seemingly enforce industry rules and can make arbitrary and biased decisions that mitigate damages for the brokerage firms,” she said. “Investors should also have the option of taking the broker to court if they so wish. The financial industry should not be allowed to oversee itself.”
At least for now, arbitration is the only option.
Stuart Meissner, the Moskvins’ attorney, said he was able to establish to the panel that the broker and the firm were not properly reviewing the client correspondence, let alone properly acting upon it.
A big help in winning the case was that the Moskvins kept all of their correspondence with Kleiner and others at the company — evidence that came in very handy.
Both Kleiner and a Wells Fargo spokeswoman said they had no comment on the outcome of the arbitration.
But the Moskvins, who finally bought a new home this month, have plenty to say, and they hope others will learn from their experience.
“More wronged investors with genuine grievances should speak out,” Claire Moskvin said. “Investors should not feel embarrassed or foolish about being scammed by a financial adviser. After all, many people have been, so you will not be alone.”
To learn more about the arbitration process, check out a broker or to file a complaint, visit the FINRA website at finra.org.
VERIZON DOES RIGHT
Earlier this month, we reported the frustration of a Verizon customer whose caller ID had the wrong name. Many calls to Verizon, but no one was able to fix the problem.
We called. It was fixed.
Now, it appears a permanent solution could be on the way. But first, more fixes.
After the last story, Bamboozled received e-mail from several other Verizon customers who said they had the same problem, and we asked Verizon to take a look:
Since 2005, caller ID for Joan and Martin Karasick of Montville has read “Keith Bordeaux” when they’d place a call to a Cablevision customer. Fixed.
When Frank and Martha Zintl of Nutley would call Cablevision customers, their caller ID would read “Martha Johnson.” Fixed.
And for the past two years, Jan and Lawrence Blakeman were identified as “Cynthia Ramsey” to all non-Verizon phone customers. Fixed.
Many thanks to Verizon for the corrections.
And we’ve finally gotten a clear explanation for why these caller ID troubles keep coming up, and why so many customers have been told by a Verizon rep that a fix could not be made, yet ultimately, Verizon did make the fixes happen.
Caller ID records are kept across many databases, some of which are independent of the actual phone carriers. Some carriers use their own same database, while others dip into those provided by independent companies.
That’s why when Verizon customers call other Verizon customers, the caller ID information is correct. Verizon uses its own database. And if a Verizon customer calls someone who uses a different carrier, and if that carrier uses an independent database system, the caller ID could be wrong.
Further, when a Verizon customer calls customer service to ask for a caller ID correction, the Verizon rep is only seeing the database Verizon uses. That’s why the reps kept telling these confused customers the caller ID information was correct.
When Bamboozled would put in a request for a correction, Verizon went outside of its walls to get the error changed.
“In each instance, we contacted the carrier with the inaccurate information and had them correct the problem in their database,” said Tom Maguire, Verizon senior vice president for East Coast operations. “Going forward, we are more than happy to reach out to the other carriers about their inaccuracies because it benefits our customer.”
Maguire said he plans wants to work with his contacts in the industry to better synchronize the information among carriers — something Bamboozled would love to see.
“The ultimate fix would be to avoid problems in the first place,” he said. “This means that all the other providers need to do a better job of maintaining the accuracy of their individual databases.”