Thinking Ahead
When it comes to financial advisor negligence and fraud, elder law, probate and estate planning, attorney Debra G. Speyer steers clients in the right direction
by Glori Gayster

Three of the hottest legal issues today—financial advisor negligence/fraud fraud, elder law, and estate planning—are rooted in a combination of economic and societal changes. Navigating such uncharted waters requires a skilled attorney.

“The struggling economy has led to an increase in Ponzi schemes and attempts to defraud consumers,” says Debra G. Speyer, Esq., principal at Speyer Law, which has offices in Bala Cynwyd, Philadelphia and Miami. “As baby boomers age and generations are living longer, legal issues involving elder care and probate are more paramount than ever.”

Founded more than 20 years ago, Speyer Law concentrates its practice in the areas of financial advisor negligence and fraud (where she recovers clients’ investment losses), elder law, probate and estate planning.

According to Speyer, too often clients spend more time researching the latest cell phone, new car or household appliance. “All are important decisions yet not in comparison to selecting a financial advisor who understands your needs, risk tolerance and goals,” she says.

Investment fraud can take on different forms, including Ponzi schemes such as those committed by Bernie Madoff. Enticed by outwardly higher returns, investors continue to buy into the investment. Other such fraud involves negligence.

“In these cases,” Speyer says, “advisors consciously make incorrect investments on behalf of their clients, such as selecting high-risk investments inconsistent with one’s age, risk tolerance or other personal factors in order to make larger commissions and fees.”

Studies show that fraud is becoming more prevalent. “These plots rely on the innate trust people have when it comes to their affiliations, including churches, synagogues and associations,” she adds. “Swindlers can take advantage of members’ by building upon a trusting relationship.”

Despite the increase in investment fraud, Speyer says there are several ways to protect against it. Chief among them is to ensure the legitimacy of the financial advisor through research. Speyer suggests asking for references and check to make sure the broker and the firm are licensed. “Clients can also check the FINRA website,” she explains. “It provides information regarding the advisor’s history, past indiscretions or questionable activities.”

Other tips include carefully reading any and all financial documents. “It is critical to make sure the paperwork matches expectations, risk tolerance and objectives,” says Speyer. “Equally important is to review monthly statements. Are there unauthorized investments or purchases? Are there any major changes you didn’t know about or authorize?”

Speyer’s greatest piece of advice is if a client sees anything different or alarming, question it and see an attorney specializing in plaintiff’s securities law. An experienced attorney will be able to help sort out the negligence or fraud and get money back from the offending party/parties. These type cases are normally taken on a contingency-fee basis so the cost to clients is often court or arbitration filing fees. Speyer welcomes prospective clients to call her for a no-obligation assessment of their situation at her Bala Cynwyd office.

“Fraud is a billion-dollar industry and an emotional issue,” she says. “People work all their lives and can lose everything. While senior citizens and older widows are viewed as more susceptible, anyone can be affected.”

About Debra G. Speyer
Speyer handles financial advisor investment negligence and fraud, elder law, probate and estate planning. Speyer is listed in Who’s Who in American Law and Who’s Who in America, and was honored by the National Association of Women Business Owners with its “Women Making History” award. She has been honored in Suburban Life magazine’s “Awesome Attorneys,” SuperLawyers and Best Lawyers on the Main Line. Philadelphia magazine honored her in its Best Lawyer issue, and she was also featured in Amtrak’s Arrive magazine as a “Woman to Watch.” She has appeared in U.S. News & World Report, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Consumer Reports Money Advisor, the Philadelphia Inquirer and others. An adjunct law professor at Drexel University, she has appeared on CNBC, CNN, NBC and Wall Street Journal Radio.

Speyer Law
Two Bala Plaza, Suite 300, Bala Cynwyd

1515 Market Street, Suite 1200, Philadelphia


Photograph by Felicia Perretti