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If you have not been invited to a free-meal investment seminar yet, chances are you will be in the near future. If you decide to go, you need to be prepared. This is because financial advisors who host free-meal seminars promise to educate attendees about investing strategies or managing money in retirement - you will also enjoy an expensive meal provided at no cost. However, because someone in a suit buys you lunch or dinner does not mean you have to buy what they are saying or selling. In many cases, free-meal investment seminars are not solely about education. Their ultimate goals are to recruit new clients and sell products - while some sales proposals may be easy for investors to swallow, the consequences can be hard to stomach.

Free investment seminars are popular and widespread. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation surveyed and found that four out of five investors age 60 and up got at least one invitation to a free investment seminar in the past three years - three out of five got six or more invitations. 25 percent of invitees said that they went to at least one seminar within the three-year period.

There is potentially nothing wrong with a free lunch. However, problems can arise when the speaker has something to sell to the audience. To examine these problems, securities regulators, including FINRA, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and state regulators, conducted more than 100 examinations involving free-meal seminars. In half the cases, the invitations and advertisements contained claims that appeared to be exaggerated, misleading, or otherwise unwarranted. 12 percent of the seminars appeared to involve fraud, ranging from unfounded projections of returns to sales of fictitious products.

If you are considering attending an investment seminar, the following points should be kept in mind while undergoing a hard sale effort:

-Seminars are designed to sell: Even when advertised as educational, many investment seminars are conducted to sell financial products. Keep in mind that sales pitches might include confusing comparisons of dissimilar products or misleading information about the safety, performance, and returns of the products.

-A good show is not always a good deal: People are generally inclined to take advice from a well-dressed speaker in a high-end restaurant or hotel. This is exactly why investment seminars are held at upscale venues. Be sure to take the time and assess whether the opportunity is right for you.

-The speaker might not be the sponsor: Even if you recognize the names of the individuals who invite you to seminar or speak at the event, they might not be the sponsors. At times, insurance companies or mutual funds finance the events, expecting that the speaker will use the event to drive up sales of their products.

Have you suffered losses resulting from promises made at a free-meal investment seminar? If so, call Robert Pearce at the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. for a free consultation.

The most important of investors' rights is the right to be informed! This Investors' Rights blog post is by the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., located in Boca Raton, Florida. For over 30 years, Attorney Pearce has tried, arbitrated, and mediated hundreds of disputes involving complex securities, commodities and investment law issues. The lawyers at our law firm are devoted to protecting investors' rights throughout the United States and internationally! Please visit our website,, post a comment, call (800) 732-2889, or email Mr. Pearce at for answers to any of your questions about this blog post and/or any related matter.