FLOWOOD — A stock brokerage and former investment adviser have been fined by the Mississippi secretary of state for advising a now-dead Greenville woman to buy into a risky and unprofitable company.
In a March order announced late last week, Texas-based brokerage Sanders Morris Harris agreed to a $25,000 fine, plus $10,000 to cover investigative costs. Sanders Morris Harris, a unit of Edelman Financial Group, also paid $75,000 to Watson’s estate in February.
Former adviser Ralph Lord of Flowood was fined $10,000 and agreed to training if he resumes investment advice, as well as a year of heightened supervision by any brokerage that might hire him. Lord also agreed not to sell certain types of securities for at least two years.
The state says that in 2003 and 2004, Lord wrongly sold 90-year-old Margaret Watson $230,000 in debt in Remote Knowledge, LLC. Watson later converted the debt into preferred stock on Lord’s advice. By December 2009, the shares were worthless, and heirs later filed a complaint with securities regulators in the office of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
The state says such investments were unsuitable for Watson, who partially liquidated a $340,000 investment portfolio to make the purchase, because the company had a history of lawsuits and was losing money, and Lord shouldn’t have steered Watson to Remote Knowledge.
“These two recommendations he made resulted in Watson holding investments not suitable for her given her investment objectives and financial situation and needs,” the state wrote in an order that Sanders Morris Harris and Lord agreed to.
However, Sanders Morris Harris handled investment banking for Remote Knowledge, giving it a reason to push investments in the company. Mississippi officials said Sanders Morris Harris later spun off its investment banking unit and developed procedures to make sure investments suit a client’s needs.