Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Elderly California Woman Who Dipped Into Her Home Equity When Investing & Losing $280K Life Savings In What Turned Out To Be Ponzi Scheme Scores $15+ Million Jury Verdict Holding Major Insurer Liable For Rogue Salesman's Illicit Handiwork

In Los Angeles, California, the Los Angeles Times reports:
  • A Simi Valley retiree was awarded $15.4 million in damages [] after insurance giant MetLife was found liable for losses she suffered in an investment that turned out to be a Ponzi scheme.

    A Los Angeles Superior Court jury said that the New York insurer, two of its subsidiaries and broker Tony Russon should pay the punitive damages to Christine Ramirez — on top of about $240,000 she lost in the scheme run by now deceased Sherman Oaks money manager Bruce Fred Friedman.

    Although MetLife officials indicated that they might appeal the case, the amount of punitive damages awarded to Ramirez could make it more likely for the insurer to pursue settlements with nearly 100 other plaintiffs who also lost money.

    “I can’t believe it,” said Ramirez, who is in her mid-70s and fighting late-stage breast cancer. “It feels wonderful.”

    MetLife spokesman Chris Stern said the insurer was “disappointed with the outcome and we anticipate appealing this decision.”
    ***
    After an eight-week trial, the defendants were found liable [] for negligence and aiding and abetting both financial elder abuse and violation of California securities laws. Ramirez also was awarded the money she lost in the scheme.

    The punitive damages were awarded Wednesday after separate deliberations. MetLife’s share totaled $10 million. Subsidiaries New England Securities and New England Life Insurance Co., were ordered to pay $2.5 million each, while Russon is responsible for $330,000, according to the plaintiff attorneys.

    Companies have to be liable for the conduct of their agents,” said Richard Donahoo, one of the attorneys representing Ramirez and other investors who are pursuing claims against MetLife.

    Ramirez is one of 98 plaintiffs who have sued the insurer in a handful of cases related to investments in DLG, but her case was allowed to proceed first because of her medical condition. A case involving more than 30 plaintiffs could go to trial next spring.

    An attorney for Russon could not be reached for comment.

    Ramirez originally invested about $280,000 in DLG but recouped some of that in payments from a court-appointed receiver that took over the investment fund in 2009. She was still out nearly $240,000 prior to the jury verdicts.

    “I made up my mind a long time ago that that money was gone,” she said.
For the story, see Simi Valley woman awarded $15.4 million after investing in Ponzi scheme pushed by insurance salesman.

For an earlier post on this story, see Embarrassed Elderly Woman Testifies About Being Duped Out Of $280K In Life Savings In Ponzi Scheme (Pilfered Money Included Cash Drawn From Home Equity Line Of Credit).

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