The "Buckets of Money" Seminars: Who Pays?
Ray “Buckets of Money” Lucia, the host of an investment radio talk show, has been going around the country hosting retirement seminars with actor Ben Stein.
The seminars are free to attend, but they’re not free. Someone is paying for them. If you’re considering investing with Lucia, it’s important to understand that the person who may wind up paying is you.
Money for the “Buckets of Money” seminars comes out of the pockets investors in RJL Wealth Management, according to Lucia’s own client disclosure.
In addition to being the main sponsor of Lucia’s seminars, RJL Wealth Management advertises on his radio show. It pays Lucia a fee for referring potential clients. It also pays him hourly consulting fees. The amount of this compensation is not disclosed.
RJL manages more than $300 million in assets in 4,880 accounts, according to its filing with federal regulators.
As I noted in an earlier post on Lucia’s fees, the RJL Wealth Management Program charges staggeringly high fees of as much as 2.9 percent annually.
Lucia’s SEC disclosure states that for his solicitation and consulting, he receives a portion of the fees collected by RJL Wealth Management that “shall not exceed 1 percent” annually. One percent of $300 million is $3 million a year.
You would be forgiven that Lucia is essentially paying himself. In fact, Lucia is being paid by his son, Ray Junior, who runs RJL Wealth Management. Dad is listed as a consultant and member of the advisory board (along with Ben Stein).
The arrangement between the Lucias leads inexorably to a conflict of interest.
Both Lucia junior and senior are SEC registered investment advisers. Registered investment advisers are considered fiduciaries, which means they have a legal duty to put their clients’ interests first. So whose interests come first clients or Lucia father and son?
I think the answer can be found in a complaint against Lucia Senior that was filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in December.
An unnamed client accused Lucia of breach of fiduciary duty for failure to execute stop loss orders in between June and December 2008 when markets plummeted in the depths of the financial crisis.
The client claimed $24,631 in damages. Lucia settled for $18,000 for “business considerations in order to avoid the cost of arbitration,” according to FINRA.
According to FINRA’s summary of the case:
Mr. Lucia was listed as a joint representative on the account for administrative purposes, but did not interact with the client and made no recommendations or representations, as those alleged or otherwise.
In other words, Lucia really had nothing to do with the account or the client. His name was on the account only “for administrative purposes.”
Ray Lucia's brokerage settles SEC charges
*** Update: An attorney for Ray Lucia has threatened to sue me over this blog post. See his letter and my response here. ***
First Allied Securities, a San Diego-based brokerage firm, has agreed to pay nearly $2 million to settle charges that it failed to supervise one of its employees.
The SEC found that between 2005 and 2008, former First Allied broker Harold Jaschke engaged in unauthorized and unsuitable trading on behalf of two Florida municipalities, putting them at risk of losing millions of dollars while he reaped commissions of more than $14 million for himself.
The SEC administrative order issued Friday hasn’t attracted much interest locally, but it’s worth a look because of its relationship with investor/radio host Ray “Buckets of Money” Lucia.
First Allied is owned by FAS Holdings, which is in turn owned by Chicago-based Advanced Equities Financial Corp. A 2008 story in Forbes magazine on Advanced Equities quoted an anonymous broker for the company as saying, “This place is a stereotypical bucket shop.”
Advanced Equities is also the subject of a series of complaints filed with financial industry regulators by San Diego’s Mirch Law Firm that mention Lucia, who hosts a radio and TV show in major media markets.
Lucia offers investment advice, including his trademarked “Buckets of Money” strategy through his show and at seminars, like this one in San Diego March 20 with actor Ben Stein.
According to SEC filings, Lucia solicits business for First Allied, and receives a cut of some of the fees in return. Fees for a Ray Lucia account run as high as 2 percent, paid quarterly in advance.
Buckets of money, indeed.