Yes, that's the sort of behavior and language he used with me. Don't fall for his pressure tactics. He's good at bullying, see attached report:
Investor Beware When Schoolyard Bully Grows Up: Susan Antilla
Commentary by Susan Antilla
Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Remember the schoolyard bully? Well, he grew up, got an insurance license and today advertises himself as owner of ''the #1 Retirement Income Planning firm in the nation.''
Meet Phillip R. Wasserman, 50, the chief executive officer of Phillip Roy Financial Services, whose Web page describes the company as a Clearwater, Florida, ''empire'' that offers the services of financial advisers, registered investment advisers, noncommissioned stockbrokers and other experts. The firm draws more than 40,000 retirees and seniors a year to ''seminars around the nation,'' the Web page says.
All that may be so, but there's plenty the Web page doesn't tell. For starters, Wasserman has no license to sell stocks, no regulatory obligation to supervise stockbroker transactions and no registration as an investment adviser.
Don't blame him. The stockbrokers who work in his office have licenses, and the out-of-town securities firms that employ them are supposed to oversee what their far-flung brokers do. Customers who sign up with Phillip Roy, though, might not grasp that the guy with his name on the door isn't the supervisor of the stock brokers down the hall.
And they might be surprised to know about Wasserman's past. A former lawyer, he resigned from the Florida Bar in 1997 after being suspended: The Florida Supreme Court said on March 21, 1996, that, on the heels of four previous public disciplines, fresh findings against Wasserman by a referee warranted two consecutive six-month suspensions and rehabilitation before he could be reinstated.
'Don't Blame Me'
Today, there are nine consumer complaints related to him or his companies that Florida insurance regulators are ''looking into,'' says spokeswoman Nina Banister. The Florida Division of Securities opened an investigation of Wasserman on March 14, says Richard A. White, director of the division. And Wasserman is a defendant in a lawsuit brought by an elderly Florida couple that is in settlement negotiations.
To Wasserman, the actions by the Florida bar, the consumer complaints and the regulatory probe are the fault of vengeful and ''crooked'' judges, ungrateful customers, jealous competitors and regulators who have taken ''inappropriate actions.'' (The Florida Bar Association once described him in a brief as suffering from ''the 'don't blame me' syndrome,'' pointing to the Bar Association, politicians and the Internal Revenue Service as the root of his problems.)
He said through his lawyer, Scott M. Bonavita, that he is aware of only two complaints with the Florida Department of Financial Services, and that no wrongdoing will be found in the suit by the Florida couple. As for his troubles with the Florida Bar, Wasserman says he was a ''crusader'' against corrupt judges whose outspokenness cost him his job.
''Several times, Phil sued and took on both powerful politicians and corrupt judges to his own detriment,'' Bonavita said.
He liberally makes threats of litigation, from a former client, to a lawyer he opposed, to Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg would be ''dead wrong'' to think he would limit his actions to a libel suit, he wrote in an e-mail on July 24. To the lawyer he opposed, Wasserman wrote in a February e-mail that court sanctions would be ''just the beginning.'' After the Florida Office of Financial Regulation opened an investigation of Wasserman earlier this year, Wasserman filed papers to start an investigation of alleged bad behavior by the regulators. His complaint is pending with the Inspector General in the state's Office of Financial Regulation. Bonavita said the probe involves Wasserman's hedge fund, the Phillip Roy Fund.
Wasserman says he has ''helped build retirements and safeguard assets for thousands of customers,'' the vast majority of whom are happy. He said through Bonavita that he and his ''lovely wife of 25 years,'' Diana Wasserman, have engaged in philanthropic work since 1985, and that he takes customer complaints very seriously.
Though he doesn't have a license to sell stocks, Wasserman has had a part in getting investors to put money in the stock market. William Kelleway, 64, of Osprey, Florida, for example, was among those at a Sarasota investment seminar run by Wasserman in September 2004. Twelve days after the seminar, Kelleway and his wife Ann visited Wasserman's suite of offices, where they were introduced to stockbroker Daniel Madigan.
The broker's advice that the Kelleways invest in ''just two securities,'' Annaly Mortgage Management Inc. and Impac Mortgage Holdings Inc., cost them $121,929, according to a complaint they filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, on April 18. In the 11 months that they owned the shares, Annaly fell 29 percent and Impac 45 percent.
'Don't Want Reprisals'
Madigan, who at the time worked for both Wasserman and USAllianz Securities Inc., now known as Questar Capital Corp., had little to say about the case. Finra, known as NASD at the time, fined USAllianz $5 million in December related to supervisory problems. ''I just don't want any reprisals from Mr. Wasserman,'' Madigan said in a telephone interview. He is no longer in the securities business and declined to describe his current employment. Finra records say Madigan has never been fired by a brokerage firm, and that he left the industry in July 2006.
Investors who think they've been wronged by their financial advisers already have strikes against them: they typically are unable to sue in court because of mandatory arbitration agreements. Then, if they get to arbitration, they have less than a 50 percent chance to win, Finra data shows. Winners needn't celebrate: a study by economist Edward S. O'Neal and lawyer Daniel R. Solin released in June showed that ''win'' rarely amounts to being made whole.
Of course, no one is thinking about that when brokers or insurance agents are giving the big pitch. Nor could they imagine the smiling salesman showing a hostile side.
After I contacted Wasserman to ask about the Kelleway complaint, he threatened the couple with a libel suit, says James Keeney, their Sarasota lawyer. The Kelleways became so frightened that Keeney revised the complaint with Finra, eliminating various assertions about Wasserman.
Wasserman's lawyer wrote to Bloomberg on Aug. 7 that the couple may have learned that Wasserman's ''policy'' is to take legal action against anyone who ''libels or defames'' Wasserman or his businesses. They then ''misconstrued this policy as an individual threat.''
But Wasserman wrote me in a June 14 e-mail that the couple and their lawyer had been advised that if the complaint wasn't revised immediately, ''legal action will be filed against them.'' That sure sounds like an individual threat to me.
John Hargrove, the Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents another Florida couple enticed by Wasserman's seminar, says Wasserman called his clients and ''had some very acrimonious conversations with them,'' after the St. Petersburg Times inquired about their case. The elderly clients felt ''intimidated'' by Wasserman, Hargrove said, ''and they are tough people.''
Investors willing to do a lot of research might have learned some of Wasserman's background before signing up. But they could never have anticipated that he'd threaten to make their lives hell if things went bad and they complained.
The regulators don't keep a database of bullies.