A former MetLife and Prudential Financial broker has been barred from the securities industry after allegedly making unsuitable recommendations to clients regarding variable annuities, then taking “egregious” measures to cover his tracks.
Winston Wade Turner was barred on Friday in a Finra disciplinary hearing for inducing at least 12 clients to exchange existing investments, including variable annuities costing clients more than $150,000 in surrender charges, while hiding from his employers the sources of his clients’ funds.
While working for MetLife and later Prudential between 2012 and July 2015, Turner allegedly attempted to avoid supervisory scrutiny by splitting the exchanges into separate sales and purchases, in most instances interposing the customers’ bank accounts.
Finra alleged that in some cases, Turner was withdrawing client funds from MetLife annuities he had sold to clients to purchase a Prudential annuity.
According to Finra’s complaint, Turner made misstatements about the tax impact of the annuity exchanges and the amount of earnings the newly purchased products would generate.
Turner, who worked out of a home office in Flowery Branch, Ga. until April 2014, when he moved to Sarasota, Fla., allegedly told at least three customers that their annuities would earn a “guaranteed” minimum annual interest, when the annuities only guaranteed minimum withdrawal rates, in one case paying a customer expected returns out of his own pocket.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority further alleged that Turner forged client signatures on variable annuity applications, lied to his firm’s principals and put his own email addresses in place of certain customers’ email addresses so that account notifications would be sent directly to him.
In addition to the suitability violations, Finra also accused Turner of failing to disclose outside business activities to his employers and of failing to appear, testify and provide information as part of its enforcement action.
In 2015, Turner’s employer, Pruco Securities, a brokerage subsidiary of Prudential, terminated Turner due to the deceptive sales practices.
In a July 8 decision, the Finra hearing officer barred Turner for four causes: providing false information to clients in connection with the variable annuity sales, providing false information on documents relating to the sales, fraudulently misrepresenting and omitting material facts to customers in connection to the sales, and failing to provide testimony to Finra.