The Massachusetts Securities Division has filed an official complaint against a Denver, Co. brokerage operator, alleging that he and his organization tried to scare elderly people into abandoning their securities in favor of annuities with outrageous commissions.

The complaint, filed on Sept. 25, alleges that Tyrone Clark and the company he oversees, Broker’s Choice of America, as well as the Senior Benefit Centers Network, "recruited and trained associates specifically to target the elderly and to scare them into selling their securities holdings for the purpose of purchasing annuities with exorbitant commissions."

In addition, the complaint alleges that the accused parties "used specious titles as ‘Certified Elder Planning Specialists’ (‘CEPS’) to mislead the elderly and disguise the fact that the associates were insurance salesman."

The complaint asks for a cease and desist order and an administrative fine.

Clark, who is president of Broker’s Choice in Denver, Colo., operates Annuity University, a two-day training session featured in a July 2 article in the Wall Street Journal. The article quoted Clark as telling annuity salespeople to treat the elderly like "blind 12-year-olds."

While Clark has defended his sales tactics and says that he intends to teach people how to help elderly investors, the complaint uses many of Clark’s own training literature to make its case. Although the WSJ article did bring Annuity University to the attention of the public, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s current actions were precipitated by May and June queries and complaints about Clark’s businesses.

The Securities Division covers the actions of registered investment advisers. Because Clark and his companies are alleged to have posed as registered investment advisers or investment adviser representatives, the division is able to pursue this complaint. However, those individuals also fall under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, which is responsible for regulating the sales of fixed annuities.

Clark does not have any active complaints with the insurance department in Colorado, where his businesses are based and where the Annuity University seminars take place, a spokesperson said.

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