Former employer of convicted broker fined in the past by New York state

Published by ABC 13 WHAM Rochester

by Jane Flasch/WHAM

Thursday, May 2nd 2019

Rochester, N.Y. – 13WHAM reported Wednesday about a Rochester investment broker convicted of grand larceny involving one client – and ordered to pay $2.3 million to another.

One of the companies that broker worked for has been fined in the past by New York state.

In 2014, the State Department of Financial Services levied its largest fine ever against AXA Equitable Holdings involving variable annuity products. Those are the very products Jim and Sandra Fitzpatrick, as well as Shirley Kerwin, say they were advised to purchase through their broker, Francesco Puccio.

“I really didn’t understand it,” Kerwin told 13WHAM. “I told him I trusted him.”

During the time he advised the Fitzpatricks, Puccio worked for AXA.

We asked George Conboy of Brighton Securities to explain the annuity and the risk.

“It’s variable,” he said. “It can change in valueit’s not a guaranteed return on investment, and that confuses a lot of people.”

AXA Equitable Holdings says Puccio hasn’t worked for the company for five years.

“These actions were inconsistent with our policies and values,” the company said in a statement. “We remain committed to serving our clients with integrity.”

AXA’s revenues totaled $373 million in 2017. Published data says variable annuities accounted for nearly half of the revenue.

“If they were selling seven percent VA’s, that would be a lot,” said Conboy. “the VA carries the highest commission of any product that we could sell. That’s why we don’t sell many of them.”

In 2011, New York state fined AXA for not properly reporting variable annuity contracts. A 2014 fine of $20 million involving the annuities was the largest imposed by the state.

AXA has also been fined almost $20 million for other violations. An AXA spokesperson declined to comment on the fines, but did not dispute them.

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