No. of Recommendations: 1
Last September I decided to join the Fool to gain some insight in the financial world. At the time I was requesting information for my parents regarding an amex financial planner who had convinced them to put all the retirement accounts within an annuity. Expenses were easily over 2%. The responses all of you gave was overwhelming and put me in a state of enlightenment. Serious thank you's to all below...


I have a favor to ask all of you. I've kept all of your posts regarding the parents burned saga posted last September. I also have all the transcripts with the Amex guy, tons of articles, two class action lawsuits documentation, a few articles from WSJ, articles posted on the Fool about annuities as well as multiple other sites and books on annuities, and all of your responses.

I've tried to work it out with Amex but they just sent me a letter stating that my complaints were settled by a class action lawsuit a couple of years ago and the cutoff date was 3/1/00. No one told my folks about this, certainly not the amex guy. My parents account was opened in February of 2000 so they're saying tough.

I would like your permission to use your responses in the package I will be sending the NAIC, SEC, NASD, New York Times, WSJ, Washington Post, as well as numerous other newspapers and magazines. I've done a ton of homework on this and think the time is right with all the scandals and all.

I'm also asking for any additional words of wisdom you might have. This may take a year or longer to resolve (or even put all this stuff together for that matter) and most likely won't lead to my desired outcome (move their funds to Vanguard without any surrender fees) but my hope is if I spread the word enough perhaps someone will listen.


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No. of Recommendations: 4
I had a bad experience with an insurance company about a year ago. It was very from different from your situation, but I was able to cut through the bureaucracy and get it resolved very quickly. I went to their web site, found the page for investor relations, found the annual report, and got the names of the executive officers and board of directors. Using their names, I made two guesses for each of their email addresses (, and I then wrote a stern email directly to the execs and BOD. Out of 33 emails 15 were returned because of bad addresses, but 18 went through. The following day, my wife got a call from someone saying the CEO acknowledged receipt of the email, and had instructed her to “handle it.” She asked my wife some questions and it was resolved very quickly.

If I was in your position, that's what I would do. In the email, I would focus on:
1. The previous lawsuits demonstrate the unfairness of their fee schedule.
2. You (I think) are not asking for refunds of their past excessive fees; You only want their investments released without additional fees.
3. If the settlement included a refund of excessive fees, point out the precedent, and that your request is more than reasonable.
4. Tell them what you are preparing to do (who you will sending info to, etc).
5. Ask them to step in and resolve the matter now to spare everyone time and hassle.
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No. of Recommendations: 2
You're welcome, and feel free to use my comments.

That said, you're probably out of luck, and my advice is to drop the matter and get on with your life.

You have two options: get a lawyer and persue the matter in court, or harrass the company until they pay you something, as Joe suggests.

If there was some type of clear, provable (in writing) illegitimate behavior by AmEx, it doesn't matter if there was a prior class action or not: you can still sue and recover damages (unless there are statue of limitation issues). However, I doubt that was the case. More likely, your parents were simply sold a high fee financial product. Happens every day.

Harrassing the company probably won't work either. That's an effective trick (that I've used a few times) for unique situations where the company can make you whole without having to pay a million people with cases just like yours. But if AmEx reimburses your parents for such a generic claim as having been sold a high fee product, they'll open up the door to paying the rest of their customers as well. It isn't going to happen.

Bottom line: somewhere, there's a contract your parents signed, and however awful it was, AmEx adhered to it. If you can prove otherwise, by all means take them to court. Otherwise...

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No. of Recommendations: 0

I am not exactly sure that my giving you permission to use my posts from the Fool for your purposes is sufficient, but as far as I am concerned, it is not a problem - go ahead and use that post, if you think it will help you, but I'm not sure it will. If I remember that post correctly, it did not use real numbers; it used simulated numbers, because I couldn't figure out which numbers to put in which places in the NPV equation, from the earlier posts in the thread. I am not a lawyer, but if I had to guess, you would probably have a hard time showing the value of that post to your cause. What you really need isn't the information from my post, but the NPV calculation logic I used, applied to the actual numbers provided in the annuity contract. And the last time I checked, the NPV equations are in common enough use that you certainly do not need my permission to use them.

Good luck,
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