Have you received a post card in the mail recently promising a free gourmet dinner, with your choice of filet mignon, poached salmon or grilled Portobello steak, at the Ocotillo Restaurant in exchange for sitting through an “informational seminar and insurance sales presentation”?
My first thought upon reading this post card was that given the high cost of the promotion — a sit-down filet mignon dinner at a really nice restaurant — that the company sponsoring this free dinner must be having a VERY hard time attracting customers on the merits of the company alone. I read the postcard thoroughly and squinted to read the mice type, which said “Securities and investment advisory services offered through Woodbury Financial Services.”
Then I looked into Woodbury Financial Services, and it was no wonder the person putting on this promo buried the company’s name in the mice type.
A quick search showed that Woodbury Financial Services has gotten loads of complaints by investors about broker misconduct over the past years. The company has been slapped with enforcement actions for failing to do adequate background checks on, and supervise its representatives, which has led to charges of fraud and deceit, and investors losing funds. In 2008, the Pennsylvania Attorney General filed criminal charges against a registered Woodbury agent for allegedly defrauding clients out of $284,000.
In 2016, a New York law firm posted an article about a growing number of complaints about a Woodbury investment agent named Daniel Dunn that alleged Dunn had violated securities laws by promoting unsuitable investments, and making misrepresentations to clients.
In 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) charged Woodbury Financial a fine of over $1 million for failing to supervise an agent who committed negligence, fraud and deceit against clients.
Three one-star reviews pan the company as “absolute garbage,” say it’s customer service is impossible to reach and that the company charged contrived “fees.”
Woodbury is not registered with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but it still has had complaints lodged against it BBB from people who have used their services and been very unhappy.
Beware free meal promotions
Financial and investment firms often target “free gourmet meal” promotions to people over 50, who they hope have some accumulated wealth and might cave to emotional appeals, like the call-and-response type questioning and revival-meeting like atmosphere used at these “seminars.”
Don’t fall for it. If you want the free meal, go, but don’t agree to buy anything at the seminar and think twice about signing up for anything with this troubled company. Wait until afterwards to make any decisions, and if you can, get neutral financial advice or search for a more reputable company before doing anything rash.