Consumer

ConsumerWatch: USF Law Program Helps Small Investors Fight Back

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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – A one-of-a-kind program is offering help to small investors who’ve been led down the wrong path by brokers and investment advisors.

The Investor Justice Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law has students who help small investors fight back. The clinic has helped return more than a million dollars to small investors.

“It’s a two-way street. They get free legal advice and we get to help them,” said Brian Keegan, a student at USF.

Linda Soltis, a school-teacher, turned to the clinic for help after she invested some money from an inheritance. Soltis told the financial advisor at her bank to put her money into something low risk. When the investment went bad, she lost $43,000.

“It turned out it was mostly comprised of high-yield bonds, which I later found out were junk bonds,” Soltis recalled.

She turned to USF’s program for help because most practicing lawyers won’t take cases where investors have lost less than $100,000.

“A lot of our clients don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Keegan.

Clinic founder Robert Talbot said brokers in California are required by law to act in their clients’ best interest.

“Brokers obligation is to know their customers,” Talbot said,

But not all brokers do.

“Maybe because they’re making a higher commission or they haven’t paid attention,” Talbot said.

All of Soltis’ money was retuned to her, plus interest.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see that money again,” said Soltis.

The clinic takes about a dozen cases every year from all over the Western United States. There’s no fee to the client. Losing money in an investment doesn’t mean the broker did anything wrong, but it has to be an unsuitable investment for the client.

Form more information, see the program website.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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