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CFO Sink Revokes License of Tampa Bay Agent for Deception in Sale of Annuities

6/22/2007

CONTACT:  Tara Klimek or Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842         
 
PORT RICHEY—Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has issued an order revoking the license of a Tampa Bay-area insurance agent for exploiting seniors in the sale of annuities.
 
Sharon Razdar, 49, was accused of misleading and deceptive practices in the sale of annuities.   She and her husband Bijan Razdar owned and operated American Independent Financial Services, located at 10633 U.S. Highway 19 in Port Richey.  An investigation by the Department of Financial Services (DFS) determined the Razdars targeted elderly Florida consumers through radio advertisements and seminars, with the goal of soliciting seniors to purchase annuity contracts that would earn the couple high-dollar commissions.  Bijan Razdar’s license was revoked last year.
 
“It is reprehensible that anyone would take advantage of any Floridian, most especially a senior citizen who is looking for help with investing hard-earned money,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the DFS.  “I am relieved that these two are out of the insurance business in Florida, and I commend everyone in the department who helped make this happen.”
 
The Razdars’ radio advertisements were designed to sound like financial talk shows offering financial advice to listeners.   The Razdars used their radio advertisements to attempt to induce investors into surrendering in-force life insurance and annuity products or other investments for the purpose of purchasing equity indexed fixed annuities, which may have been unsuitable and inappropriate for listeners’ investment objectives and financial needs.   Bijan Razdar continued to sell annuities to elderly consumers even after having his license revoked and was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges that he continued to transact without a license, now a felony in Florida.
 
While investors may be lured into the purchase of an equity indexed annuity believing that they will realize returns similar to that of an index, such at the S&P 500, such a belief may not be reasonable. Equity indexed annuities can be complex, long-term investments carrying high surrender charges, and investors should consider getting advice from more than one financial professional prior to investing in such products. 
 
When considering buying annuity product, CFO Sink offers Floridians the following advice:
 
  • Find out the specifics of the particular annuity you are considering (variable or equity-indexed).  Request a prospectus from the insurance company or from you financial professional, and read it carefully.

  • Compare the benefits and costs of the annuity to other annuities and to other types of investments (stocks, bonds and mutual funds).
    Carefully assess financial goals - variable and equity index annuities are designed to be long-term investments to meet long term goals such as retirement.

  • Equity-index annuities are complicated investment products that may contain several features that can affect your investment return.  Make sure you understand how an equity indexed annuity computes its index-linked interest rate before you buy.

  • Consult a tax adviser and consider all the tax consequences of purchasing an annuity, including the effect of annuity payments on your tax status in retirement.

  • Ask the sales agent about the licenses and/or designations he or she holds, and what types of investment choices he or she can offer you.

  • Ask about commissions, fees, penalties, surrender charges and any other associated costs. Get the figures in writing.

  • Before you surrender an in-force investment to purchase a new product, call the company to find out if you will suffer a surrender charge, and if so, how much it will be. The cost of a transfer may outweigh any benefit of a new product.

  • Beware of "bonus" interest rates, as they may be limited in duration and have strings attached, and sales pitches that claim you will "recoup" all penalties with higher returns.

  • Take your time. High-pressure sales tactics will rush you into an unwise decision. A sound investment will be just as good tomorrow or next week.

  • Document all transactions.

Remember:  if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
 
Consumers who believe they have been victim of financial fraud should call the Department's Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or log on to www.fldfs.com to file a complaint.
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink  oversees the department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.