The CFP Board published a list of 20 CFPs who have filed for bankruptcy, prompting protest from some who says the list permanently tarnishes planners who had good reasons to default on their debts.

"The CFP Board has created a scarlet letter, but people don't understand what led up to the bankruptcy," said one planner who asked not to be named. He declined to comment further on his experience.

Other planners cite extenuating circumstances. "I had a son who had an addiction to heroin," says Michael Welger, of Innovative Financial Concepts in Freehold, N.J., who declared bankruptcy in 2013 "We threw everything we had [at his recovery] to save his life."

Welger estimates he spent $100,000 to put his son through treatment last year. "The choice was family or money, and I chose family," he says.

POLICY DEFENDED

None of the planners on the list are subject to any disciplinary action from the board.

The information "is provided only for purpose of providing consumers with adequate information to make an informed decision with regard to engaging a CFP professional to assist with financial decisions," the board says in a release.

The board lists planners' bankruptcies on their public profiles on the board's website for 10 years. That period starts either when a planner discloses a bankruptcy to the board or when the board first learns of it -- whichever is earlier.

Michael Shaw, the board's managing director of professional standards and legal, has defended the disclosure policy, saying it "benefit[s] the public by: 1) making consumers aware of any CFP professional who has filed a bankruptcy within the previous five years; and 2) enhancing CFP Board’s consumer protection efforts by focusing more of CFP Board’s resources on allegations involving client harm."

REAL ESTATE MOVE

Michael T. Kuczinski, of Total Wealth Enhancement Group in Millstone Township, N.J., says his March 2013 bankruptcy stemmed from a commercial building he bought in 2004 in order to expand his business. "Unfortunately, I signed everything personally, even though it was owned commercially," Kuczinski says.

The value dropped in half after the crash of the real estate market, he says. While the building sat vacant, Kuczinski says, he poured money into it monthly to keep it in pristine condition, in hopes that the market would recover.

Ultimately, the bank came after him, he says. "I had literally two choices: find a way to pay them or file" for bankruptcy, he says. "They basically did not care about the circumstances."

By filing for bankruptcy, Kuczinski says, he was able to save his home and his retirement accounts. "I feel better. I've moved on," he says. "I'm glad to explain it."

While Welger says he still has to deal with the stigma attached to bankruptcy, he also is happy to be able to explain what happened with his son's addiction and recovery. His son has been sober for a year now and is attending college, Welger says. "We are slowly digging our way out," he says.

LIST OF BANKRUPTCIES

The full list of names released by the CFP Board is below; the bankruptcies date from as far back as spring 2009, and the cities listed are those where the bankruptcy filing was made. Almost all declared personal bankruptcy; the one exception is Jonathan Burns, who says he filed for bankruptcy on an outside business.

Those not quoted could not be reached for comment.

  • Jonathan Burns -- February 2013, Madison, Wis.
  • Catherine Clark -- August 2012, Chicago
  • Phillip Q. Couture -- February 2010, Tampa, Fla.
  • Michel S. Dawson -- July 2009, Phoenix 
  • Karen K. Demgen -- May 2010, Denver
  • Daniel Derepentigny -- April 2014, Sacramento
  • Richard A. Earls Sr. -- October 2013, Cincinnati
  • Jennifer L. Griffin -- January 2014, Detroit
  • Michael T. Kuczinski -- March 2013, Trenton, N.J.
  • Alan R. Lew -- November 2012, Chicago
  • John Michael Mazzara -- March 2009, Minneapolis
  • Phyllis R. Miller -- June 2012, Hartford, Conn.
  • Debra L. Nelson                -- January 2012, Charleston, S.C.
  • Ryan Thomas Roach -- December 2013, Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Heather Innis Sadique -- December 2010, San Jose, Calif.
  • Jason A. Schall -- April 2013, Charleston, S.C.
  • Michael A. Tankersley -- September 2011, Decatur, Ala.
  • Bridget Vaughn -- January 2014, Chicago
  • Michael Welger                -- February 2014, Trenton, N.J.
  • Alexander Zourides -- January 2013, Central Islip, N.Y.

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