A former client of Ameriprise Financial has sued the financial services giant for allegedly selling him nearly $800,000 in inappropriate variable annuities between 2009 and 2012.

The plaintiffs, John R. Marshall of Sacramento, Calif., and his irrevocable trust, which names his brother Michael Marshall as trustee, filed charges last week in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California, demanding a jury trial.

Ameriprise employee Kambiz Ghazanfari first sold John Marshall an investment account in 2000, according to court documents. Marshall’s faith in Ghazanfari’s financial advice became so great that, in February 2017, when Marshall formed his trust for the benefit of his children, he made Ghazanfari its financial advisor, too.

Marshall began to suspect problems only after Ghazanfari’s unexpected death in December 2020, according to the suit.

BrokerCheck, a site maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, confirmed that Ghazanfari was registered with Ameriprise from 1998 through the end of 2020.

In response to a request for comment, Ameriprise denied the charges. “We have thorough documentation showing the variable annuities were suitable and properly sold to the client,” said Alison Mueller, an Ameriprise spokesperson, by email. “We plan to defend ourselves vigorously against the allegations of this lawsuit.”

The plaintiffs and their attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Ghazanfari advised Marshall to invest a total of $797,000 in a series of variable annuities between 2009 and 2012, according to court documents. The suit alleged that Ghazanfari said these annuities would generate a 9% to 10% annual return tax-free (as opposed to tax-deferred). Moreover, Ghazanfari allegedly gave the impression that these annuities were as safe as municipal bonds and had very low fees. He did not, however, mention that the investments could not be withdrawn for seven years without incurring substantial penalties, according to the charges.

In addition, unknown to Marshall at the time, Ghazanfari allegedly added expensive riders to the annuities. These riders were designed to pay Marshall a retirement income stream, but Marshall claimed he had told Ghazanfari that he never intended to retire, so the riders were unnecessary and never wanted.

Court documents acknowledged that Marshall “did not read the paperwork related to the variable annuities because he is dyslexic and therefore reading is difficult and time-consuming for him.” But over the course of their 20 years of professional association, Marshall would “always do whatever Ghazanfari advised.”

After Marshall set up the trust for the benefit of his children in 2017, he began moving some of the annuity money into the trust. The lawsuit said that Ghazanfari then used those funds to buy more annuities with expensive income riders, which Marshall claimed the trust did not need. What’s more, the new annuities carried an additional seven-year “surrender period” during which funds could not be withdrawn without incurring large fees.

After Ghazanfari’s death, Marshall’s account was transferred to another Ameriprise advisor, who alerted Marshall to some of the potential problems in his portfolio. Marshall afterward ended his relationship with the company.

In the suit, Marshall claimed that Ghazanfari’s actions and explanations for his financial guidance were “inaccurate and/or misleading.” Ghazanfari’s “representations about the costs, anticipated performance and safety of the variable annuities were equally misleading,” the suit further alleged.

The suit accuses Ameriprise of letting Ghazanfari sell “unsuitable” investments and ignoring its fiduciary responsibility to supervise its employee against such practices, which the suit called intentional and self-dealing.

Specifically, Ameriprise was accused of fraud, intentional misrepresentation, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and related charges. No exact remedy was requested, other than to present the case in a jury trial.