Forbes has released a new A&O related article, this one focusing on Adley Abdulwahab. Here is a link to the article, which includes a photograph of Wahab.
The article begins with a recounting of the October raid of Wahab’s home, but quickly begins taking shots at A&O investors:
Armed officers from the U.S. Marshals Service swarmed into an elaborately decorated $1.5 million home in Spring, Tex. early one Saturday morning in October. Inside they found Adley Abdulwahab, 34, and his family. The Abdulwahabs were allowed to gather a few personal belongings and then escorted out the door. The house was seized and became part of a tussle among hundreds of victims desperate to recoup anything they can from Abdulwahab’s investment scams–ruses so brash and, in retrospect, so unbelievable as to raise doubts about the sanity of investors.
The article suggests that Wahab and A&O front man Russell Mackert funneled the missing investor’s money to Wahab’s off-shore bank accounts:
Where did the other tens of millions of dollars that are missing from A&O and W Financial go? Starting in the summer of 2007 Abdulwahab transferred $12.6 million to an account controlled by Mackert, court documents say. Mackert then funneled millions to Abdulwahab’s own offshore accounts, according to these documents. The Securities & Exchange Commission sued Abdulwahab, claiming he fraudulently sold securities through W Financial, and obtained a $15 million judgment against him in October.
The article concludes by calling A&O investors “gullible” for believing that the company would deliver guaranteed returns of 12%.
I disagree with this assessment. How many A&O investors dealt with Wahab? My guess is close to zero. A&O used life insurance agents from across the country who had long standing relationships with clients to sell the "investments.” The investments were not sold by boiler room salesman who were cold-calling suckers. They typically were sold to people who knew and trusted the salesman based on a long-standing relationship.
Many life insurance agents also hold themselves out as investment advisers. Many are licensed to broker sales of securities. This makes the agents even more trustworthy when they reccommend an investment to a long-time client.
I would agree that investors were gullible if they believed in a guaranteed 50% or more, but 12%? That’s not a crazy high number. Particularly when sold by someone who an investor knew and trusted. The agents who sold these policies are much more responsible for the losses than investors, but the Forbes article places no blame on the sales agents.
Were Bernie Madoff’s investors gullible suckers? Were the Stanford Financial investors suckers? What about investors in WorldCom and Enron?
Or are the SEC and state regulatory systems not doing enough to police investment fraud and protect investors? Isn’t that their job? Did they do their job here in a timely fashion?