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TD Ameritrade Inc. was subpoenaed by Massachusetts in connection with a sweep investigation, which is looking into sales practices involving alternative investments sold to seniors. TD Ameritrade's principal office is located in Omaha, Nebraska. On July 10, 2013, the state's securities division sent the subpoena to TD Ameritrade asking for information on sales of the products to state residents who are 65 or over. Some of the non-traditional investments include oil and gas partnerships, private placements, structured products, hedge funds, and tenant-in-common offerings. The state demanded information from TD Ameritrade on any such products that have been sold over the past year, the investors who purchased them, the commissions generated, how the sales were reviewed, and all relevant compliance, training and marketing materials TD Ameritrade has until July 24 to respond. The state added that being on the list of targeted firms does not indicate wrongdoing.

Although non-traded REITs were not part of the information request, Massachusetts has expressed its heightened concern "that the senior marketplace is being targeted for the sales of these high-risk, esoteric products," Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin said in a statement. The state has already cracked down on a number of firms for alleged improper sales of non-traded REITs. In February 2013, the state reached a settlement with LPL Financial to pay at least $2 million in restitution and $500,000 in fines related to the sale of non-traded REITs. In May 2013, it settled REIT cases with Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., Commonwealth Financial Network, Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., Royal Alliance Associates Inc. and Securities America Inc. The five firms agreed to pay a total of $6.1 million in restitution to investors and fines totaling $975,000.

Senior investors have become the targets of unscrupulous brokers, investment advisors and insurance agents. This is due in part to the fact that as we age, our ability to understand newer and complex investments diminishes every year. Therefore, senior retirement savings are ripe for picking and an epidemic of fraud is underway all across America. As a result many states, such as Massachusetts, have enacted laws with harsh penalties and are performing investigative sweeps to protect senior investors.

Broker-dealers have a duty to protect senior investors from broker misconduct by establishing and implementing an adequate supervisory system to oversee sales practices. If broker-dealers do not so, they may be liable to senior investors for damages flowing from an unreasonable recommendation and sale.

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. Please see our Instablog profile (left column) for ways to contact us and get answers to any of your questions about this blog post and/or any related matter.