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Advisor who touts his holiday giving faces SEC fraud charges

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“Springer turkey challenge feeds over 25,000!” advisor Keith Springer says in a blog posted on his website, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his fundraising effort for which he thanks his clients for their “generous donations.”

The SEC offers a different picture of Springer’s relationship to clients in a complaint dated the same day as the post. Springer defrauded clients who were retirees and near retirees, most of whom were “unsophisticated” and over 55, since at least January 2014 by failing to disclose millions of dollars of compensation he received for putting them into high-cost annuities and other investments, the commission says in a complaint. Springer, 55, runs Springer Financial Advisors which he promotes through his “Smart Money with Keith Springer” radio show under the tagline, “Invest for need, not for greed,” hosted by a radio station in the greater Sacramento, California, area.

“From January 2014 through April 2019, [the firm] received at least $6 million in annuity commissions and bonus payments from the sale of annuities to its advisory clients,” the commission says in its action. “Neither Springer nor SFA disclosed this to their advisory clients.”

Springer and his firm “also received additional undisclosed benefits for the sale of annuities from an insurance marketing organization,” the complaint continues. “For example, [firm employees] received, among other things, free sales and operations support, free marketing services, paid incentive trips and tickets to concerts and sporting events. The benefits were tiered such that the more annuities that [they] sold, the more benefits [they] received.”

Planner Keith Springer's website, advertising his radio show in Sacramento, California.

Separately, Springer paid tens of thousands of dollars to “multiple search engine suppression consultants,” the SEC says. These specialists remove or suppress unwanted Google search results so damaging news is not found easily. In Springer’s case, consultants helped him conceal his past regulatory record, the SEC says.

In 1999, the New York Stock Exchange and the SEC barred him for four years for “improper conduct that benefited him personally to the detriment of his clients.”

The commission seeks a jury trial, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and an order enjoining him from further violations of the federal securities laws, saying Springer and his firm “will continue to violate the federal securities laws.” The SEC complaint, dated Dec. 19, does not specify the amount of damages to Springer’s victims.

A woman answering the phone at Springer’s office said he was busy. He did not immediately return the call. An SEC official handling the case also did not respond.

Springer convinced his clients to sell investments in their existing retirement accounts to fund annuities or to sell existing annuities — and pay the associated surrender fees — to fund new annuities, the commission says. The advisor and his firm “failed to disclose to clients that [they] had compensation arrangements that provided them with far more money and other benefits for directing clients into annuities than what [they] would have received had they recommended other investments,” the commission alleges in its action. They also failed to disclose conflicts of interest involving a third-party asset manager for advisory services and the placement of clients into portfolios run by that outside manager, the SEC says in its complaint.

Springer’s website shows multiple photos of him handing checks to smiling leaders of local nonprofits.

“If we all gave back to the community, just a little bit,” Springer writes, “our society would be a much better place to live.”

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