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Well-known Charlotte financial adviser sold products tied to fraud case, clients claim

James Heafner of Heafner Financial Solutions goes over Social Security basics

Well-known Charlotte financial adviser James Heafner is being accused by some clients of recommending and selling them unregistered financial instruments issued by a Florida firm charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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Well-known Charlotte financial adviser James Heafner is being accused by some clients of recommending and selling them unregistered financial instruments issued by a Florida firm charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Clients of a well-known Charlotte financial adviser are accusing him of selling unregistered financial instruments issued by a Florida firm charged with fraud.

Three clients of Jim Heafner, president of Heafner Financial Solutions, are seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from him, according to disclosures with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. They are going through the regulatory agency to pursue their claims. In addition, at least two law firms are looking to talk to Heafner clients who believe they’ve lost loss money from the alleged recommendations, the firms said.

The accusations have put a spotlight on a businessman known in the region for frequent appearances giving financial advice on local TV stations, such as WBTV, WCNC and WSOC. Heafner, 70, has also promoted himself on local radio and with financial self-help books such as “SuccessOnomics” and “Retire Abundantly.”

Heafner referred questions this week to his attorney, Charlie Bridgmon.

Bridgmon said he was not able to discuss the three clients’ claims. But he said Heafner also has money “tied up” with the Florida firm, 1 Global Capital. Bridgmon said Heafner was also an investor in the securities the Florida firm was issuing.

Bridgmon also said that Heafner is retiring and plans to close his south Charlotte business at the end of this month. And Bridgmon confirmed media reports that Heafner has been residing in Puerto Rico for at least the past three or four months.

According to FINRA disclosures, Heafner is no longer registered as a broker — a person who buys and sells securities, such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. He had been registered with Georgia-based Taylor Capital Management from 2011 until January 2018, according to the disclosures.

In a statement to FINRA, Taylor Capital said Heafner failed to advise the firm of his intention to offer, sell or recommend 1 Global instruments before making a sale to an unnamed entity.

At some point, Heafner asked Taylor Capital for permission to conduct outside business activities for 1 Global, but Taylor denied the request, the Taylor statement said. Shortly after that, Heafner resigned from Taylor, according to the statement.

Asked why Heafner no longer has a broker license, Bridgmon said his client no longer needs one because of his upcoming retirement. Bridgmon said he could not comment on Taylor Capital’s statements because he had not seen them.

SEC lawsuit

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued 1 Global Capital and its former CEO, Carl Ruderman, in August in U.S. District Court, accusing them of fraudulently raising more than $287 million since 2014 from at least 3,400 investors across the U.S.

The money was raised through sales of unregistered securities sold through a network that included registered and unregistered investment advisers, according to the suit, which does not mention Heafner or any other broker by name.

Investors thought their money was being used to fund business that could not obtain more traditional financing such as bank loans, the suit said. But a substantial amount of investors’ funds went toward other purposes, such as paying 1 Global’s operating expenses, according to the suit.

Many of the clients who were defrauded had used their retirement savings to invest in the securities, the suit said.

1 Global paid millions in commissions to sales agents to offer and sell the instruments, according to the suit.

Ruderman, a former owner of Playgirl and other magazines, is accused in the suit of using some of the investors’ money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including for a luxury vacation to Greece and monthly payments for his Mercedes Benz. In a court filing this month, Ruderman denied those and other allegations.

Complaints pending

The three customer complaints against Heafner on FINRA’s website claim he recommended or sold them 1 Global Capital instruments.

The oldest of the three complaints dates to last November. Combined, the investors are seeking more than $498,015 in damages.

In one complaint, an investor claims that in 2017 Heafner recommended an investment of $100,000 in 1 Global instruments. In another, an investor claims Heafner sold 1 Global instruments, also in 2017.

Bridgmon said he could not comment on those matters because they are pending. He also said he was not allowed to comment on any of Heafner’s clients or their investments.

Heafner’s company has an A-plus rating, according to the Better Business Bureau, which says on its website that the firm has been accredited since 2006.

Bridgmon said he could not say whether Heafner was actively serving clients, but he noted that the firm is in its final days. “He’s winding down the business,” Bridgmon said.

Meanwhile, at least two law firms are soliciting Heafner clients who claim they lost money from sales of 1 Global instruments.

One of those, Florida-based Wolper Law Firm, said it has been retained by investors of Heafner. Wolper said it has also filed lawsuits and arbitration claims against other financial advisers who sold 1 Global notes.

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