HELENA, Mont. – Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen announced today that the Montana Supreme Court upheld the Commissioner’s Office order fining former Banker’s Life insurance agent, Martin O. Bower, $80,000 for violating the Montana Securities Act by victimizing two elderly women in northwestern Montana. In addition to the fine, the order also bans Bower from becoming licensed to sell insurance for five years, and bans him from seeking any securities registration or licensure.
“Mr. Bower committed a serious infraction of the law; a law that protects consumers and reputable agents in the industry,” said Lindeen.
The action resulted from a complaint by a family concerned about Bower’s interactions with their mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Bower went to the woman’s home on several occasions in an attempt to convince her to liquidate her securities accounts to purchase an insurance product, a fixed-index annuity.
The second victim lived in an assisted living facility in Kalispell. Bower tried to obtain inappropriate control over her Glacier Bancorp stock certificates and sell her a fixed annuity.
“This was an instance of an insurance agent giving investment advice without being licensed,” said Lynne Egan, Montana Deputy Securities Commissioner. “While many individuals are licensed to sell both securities and insurance products, investors should contact our office if someone is persuading them to sell an investment to fund an insurance product, or vice versa, and verify that the person is properly licensed and trained in both fields.”
Bower also attempted to sell an annuity product to a Libby family who was seeking health insurance. The family gave conditional permission to purchase the product and asked Bower to hold the check for a few days while they further considered the purchase. Bower cashed the check immediately and refused to refund the money when they opted out of the purchase.
The Supreme Court upheld an order by a Hearing Examiner and a District Court decision that Bower had violated the securities and insurance laws in Montana. The order of the Hearing Examiner concluded that “Bower had ‘used fraudulent and coercive tactics, was untrustworthy, financially irresponsible, and a source of injury’ and that Bower had committed numerous acts of fraud.”
Lindeen says modern-day financial fraud artists most often prey upon unsuspecting seniors to fleece them out of their life savings. “The best defense against fraud is education,” Lindeen said. “I encourage everyone to contact my office to help prevent themselves and other Montanans from becoming victims.”
The Montana Securities Fraud Hotline is 1-800-332-6148.