A Litchfield, Conn., advisor has been sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly charging excessive fees on high-risk investments.

Temenos Advisory Inc. and its owner, George L. Taylor, are charged with defrauding clients in a lawsuit filed by the SEC in U.S. District Court in Connecticut.

The charges come at a time when advisors’ fees and the duty of advisors to put the clients’ interests first are increasingly in the news and at the top of advisors’ and regulators’ minds.

For more than two years, Temenos and Taylor were in a “dire financial situatiion,” which influenced the decision to put clients in unsuitable private and illiquid funds, the complaint said.

Taylor steered clients, including senior citizens and individuals approaching retirement, into risky, illiquid private offerings, the SEC says. While Temenos and Taylor were supposedly charging advisory fees for unbiased financial advice, they allegedly concealed from their clients the high commissions they were pocketing from risky and unsuitable investment recommendations, including cash and ownership stakes in the private companies they recommended, according to the lawsuit.

The firm and Taylor also misled clients about the risks and prospects of the investments and grossly overbilled some of their advisory clients, according to the complaint.

“Investment advisers must put clients’ interests ahead of their own,” said Paul Levenson, director of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office. “Temenos violated that duty by placing clients in risky private placements while downplaying the risk of those investments and concealing the financial conflicts that motivated the recommendations.”

The SEC is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, penalties and permanent injunctions.
 

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