Prayers are flying fast and thick for Vitaly Korchevsky, the pastor of Slavic Evangelical Baptist Church in Brookhaven, Delaware County, indicted Tuesday in what is being called a $100 million cyber-hacking scheme to commit securities fraud.
The 50-year-old preacher from Glen Mills leads a small but extremely loyal congregation, many of whom refuse to believe the charges. Church members and friends in the Slavic community have created a Facebook page, “Pray for Vitaly Korchevsky and Family,” filled with words of support in Russian and English and Bible verses.
“Vitaly is the best preacher,” Pavel Pavlenko wrote in a post. “Innocent!” posted another supporter.
Ruvim Lypyak, a contractor and the owner of Master Home Renewal in Swarthmore, said in an interview: “He’s a good pastor, I know he’s good. I just pray for him.”
On Wednesday, Korchevsky, who also worked as a money manager and financial adviser, was being held at the Federal Detention Center in Center City, according to his lawyer, Steven Gary Brill. A federal judge in New York stayed a local federal judge’s Tuesday decision to release Korchevsky on a $100,000 recognizance bond.
Brill said a hearing was likely to be held in the next few days.
Korchevsky is one of a group of stock traders and others, all Ukrainian and Russian émigrés, who are facing sweeping insider-trading charges in a case that involves a ring of hackers, several nations, and shell companies laundering alleged profits of $100 million.
His net take from the profits was $17 million, U.S. government lawyers said Tuesday.
Local congregants of his Slavic Evangelical Baptist Church were stunned to learn of the charges against Korchevsky, known as a generous leader in the Russian- and Ukrainian-language community. He has traveled extensively to preach to Baptist congregations around the country and even has his own YouTube channel.
“Nobody saw signs of this among people I’ve tal”ked to, Kirill Chernikov, an employee at Home Trimwork in Huntingdon Valley and a Ukrainian émigré to Philadelphia, said in an interview Wednesday. “Everyone in the church is in a huge shock about it. He’s a very good person. He helped families who just moved here settle in, helping them in any way.”
The church sponsored missionaries to countries such as Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Mexico. “They bring food, gifts, and especially to children. And with the gifts they also bring spiritual assistance, tell people about God,” Chernikov said.
He recalled that his father had taken time off from work to help build the church. Delaware County real estate records show the church property at 415 Edwards Dr. in Brookhaven was purchased in 2007 for $500,000.
Korchevsky was born in Kazakhstan and moved around what was then the Soviet Union. In 1989, he immigrated to the United States and married in 1990. His wife is listed as Svetlana Korchevsky; congregants said the couple have two children.
In 1981, he embraced the evangelical Baptist faith. Since 2000, he has been chairman of the Association of Slavic Baptist Churches USA.
Korchevsky also is known in the émigré community through the financial-planning advice for families he offered in a series of Russian-language YouTube videos.
He has a legitimate background in the investment field and started his own hedge fund, NTS Capital Fund, in 2009. But according to the criminal and civil indictments filed by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, NTS Capital was a vehicle for illegal stock transactions carried out by a half-dozen traders with the help of some computer hackers.
The indictments allege that Korchevsky and the others bought and sold shares of public companies based on advance financial information hacked from several press-release services widely known in business circles.
The insider-trading strategy was so successful, the indictments allege, that Korchevsky and a co-conspirator began recruiting hackers online to expand the operation.
The two men exchanged emails in January 2013, discussing a “proprietary trading business” that “never lost money in the twelve months of 2012,” with profits of between $40,000 and $50,000 a month.
“Public companies report four times a year, and the stocks react sometimes dramatically. All that news has to come out at the same time for there to be a level playing field,” said James Nolen, senior vice president of equity trading for Drexel Hamilton brokerage in Center City.
“If someone gets a hold of it beforehand, that’s insider trading,” Nolen said.
A referral four years ago from the SEC about unusual trading patterns culminated in an investigation by agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the attorneys general of New York and New Jersey, the Department of Justice, and the SEC.
A concurrent SEC complaint alleges that Korchevsky used proceeds to buy real estate in Southeastern Pennsylvania, including houses at 1591 Meadow Lane, 3 Skyline Dr. and 7 Skyline Dr. in Glen Mills; 9 Blackhorse Lane in Media; 316 Willowbrook Rd. in Upper Chichester; and 674 Cheyney Rd. and 1290 Samuel Rd. in West Chester.
The complaint says he also purchased a shopping center at 122-134 Lancaster Ave., Malvern, and a property at 1801 E. Kings Highway in Coatesville. In some cases, the owner was listed as a corporation called Bayview One Trust.
Ken Marcellus, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors in Newtown Square, acted as broker on the Korchevskys’ 2002 purchase of the Glen Mills house that served as headquarters for Vitaly Korchevsky’s hedge fund.
“At the time, he was working in finance in New York, so he was commuting. I knew he was a minister at his local church. And they were very nice people,” Marcellus said.
In addition to working for firms such as Morgan Stanley in New York, Korchevsky achieved in 1998 what is known as the gold standard in his field, the chartered financial analyst designation, which requires years of exams and financial analysis.
A spokeswoman for the CFA Institute in New York would not say whether his designation was still active.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150813_Prayers_for__and_questions_about__pastor_indicted_in_stock-trading_scheme.html#DlFzD0xxfbYZbd0E.99
Q: How did you first become interested in the story behind LIBOR?
A: The rigging of interest rates sounded so fantastical, I couldn’t believe it was happening on such a wide scale. Could $300 trillion worth of securities really be pegged to one obscure interest rate? Then in 2012, I read about how Barclays was the first to admit that its traders were manipulating the London rate, and I wanted to understand how it affected consumers around the world. What an eye-opener… like discovering the equator had been measured at the wrong latitude.
Q: How long did it take to research and write the book? How many interviews did you need to conduct? Was it difficult to win over the trust of the people you are writing about?
A: From start to finish, the book required two years of research and writing, nearly a hundred interviews and reading tens of thousands of pages of U.S. and U.K. government documents and witness testimony. Many of the lawyers suing on behalf of cities and mortgage holders were extremely helpful; the traders were very difficult to talk to, since they implicated their bosses in some cases.
Q: What were the most surprising things you learned during your research and writing?
A: I was surprised how young and low-ranking were the traders now on trial, and how these young men and women were so quickly sacrificed by the top brass. In the cases of Barclays, UBS, Rabobank and Deutsche Bank, the CEOs argue ignorance of what was going on in the rank-and-file, when in fact, they tolerated or even encouraged the rigging of interest rates if it was bringing in revenue. (See especially UBS and Deutsche Bank). The tiny Dutch firm Rabobank was among the worst offenders. In the case of Lloyds, they’ve suspended a young woman on the money-market desk. Can we honestly believe this was the work of one person?
Another surprise? Traders were rigging the interest rate both upwards and down – depending on whom they owed favors. In some cases, their hedge fund clients were asking them to!
Finally, I was shocked at how chummy the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve and the heads of the big banks were – and are. Who is regulating whom?
Q: How does this affect the average person? Why should we care that LIBOR is used instead of a different number?
A: Have you borrowed money for college? Most student loans are pegged to LIBOR, so in prior years you were likely paying a rigged interest rate. Did you pay too much or too little every month?
LIBOR rates are the most common benchmarks for U.S. adjustable-rate mortgages, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and mutual funds. Did you pay an extra $100 a month on your home payment or did you earn too little on your money market fund?
And cities like Philadelphia, Oakland and Houston hedge their municipal bonds and other borrowings with interest rate bets; in many cases the banks rigged the LIBOR rate to ensure these towns and other borrowers weren’t paid enough on their hedges.
Q: What is the U.S. government trying to do about LIBOR? What about other nations—are their governments getting involved as well?
A: The CFTC chairman Gary Gensler tried exceedingly hard to fix the LIBOR, crisscrossing the globe to plead his case for fixing LIBOR – changing from a survey rate with no real transactions, to something that was true and transparent. He angered so many people in Washington and Wall Street that President Obama didn’t re-nominate Gensler for a second term. The City of London has lost oversight of LIBOR to the owners of the New York Stock Exchange, an outfit known as ICE, run by Jeff Sprecher.
Q: The first person involved in the LIBOR scandal was just sentenced — Tom Hayes. What is the significance of Hayes and his 14-year sentence this week?
A: Hayes was super successful – and made a lot of money personally and for his employers – by rigging interest rates. But he’s really just the first one to get caught. British regulators made an example out of him, but he’s far too clever to take the fall alone. Hayes testified that the LIBOR rate rigging goes much higher than any one bank’s trading desk – much higher up in the executive suite. His 14 year sentence will likely be reduced. I’m waiting for C-suite executives at the banks to be indicted. In my dreams!
Q: What should be the lesson that the world takes away from the LIBOR scandal?
A: About a dozen Wall Street and City of London firms have been fined $12 billion for rigging LIBOR and related rates. But I don’t think it will change the way they do business with clients. The lesson is: banks work for their own bottom line, not for the customer.
And, oh yeah, the book, “Open Secret”:
ERIN E. ARVEDLUND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2015
Donald Trump disclosed his financials last week, and Americans now know what the Republican presidential hopeful/celebrity mogul holds in his stock portfolios.
Are they good investments?
Professional investors opined on Trump’s holdings, most of which are blue-chip companies found in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. His total investments are worth at least $78 million, according to his Federal Election Commission filings. That’s spread over brokerage accounts with Barclays, JPMorgan, and Oppenheimer, and two with Deutsche Bank.
“Confused, messy. Not well organized,” Daniel Wiener, an expert in low-cost Vanguard mutual funds, says after viewing Trump’s holdings. “With so many broker accounts, he’s overpaying in fees.”
The Donald’s major equity holdings show nearly 100 big-name blue chips: AT&T, Apple, GE, Conoco Phillips, Verizon, Wal-Mart, Bristol Myers Squibb, Altria, JPMorgan Chase, Caterpillar, and Morgan Stanley, to name a few. Many throw off dividends as income.
“It’s vanilla. It’s bland, very liquid. It’s not speculative at all,” says James Nolen, senior vice president of equity trading at Drexel Hamilton in Center City.
As is true of many One Percenters, Trump’s biggest single investment is in a hedge fund: BlackRock’s Obsidian fixed-income fund, disclosed at between $25 million and $50 million. Obsidian has returned roughly 11 percent annually since its inception in 1996.
Trump also has invested $1 million to $5 million in two Angelo, Gordon & Co. hedge funds (AG Diversified Credit Strategies and AG Eleven Partners), three funds run by John Paulson (Paulson Partners, Paulson Advantage Plus, and Credit Opportunities), and MidOcean Credit Opportunities Fund.
He invested up to $5 million in Baron mutual funds (Baron Small Cap, Baron Focused Growth, Baron Real Estate, Baron Growth, and Baron Partners.)
Trump also maintains $5 million to $25 million in his Capital One checking and savings accounts, an additional $1 million to $5 million in a JPMorgan Chase account, and $1 million in a money-market account at Deutsche Bank.
In commodities, Trump owns $100,000 to $250,000 in physical gold and a $100,000-to-$250,000 position in the GAMCO Global Gold Natural Resources & Income Trust.
“There’s no rhyme or reason as to how these different accounts are invested,” Wiener says.
For instance, Trump’s JPMorgan account sold Apple for a capital gain of between $1 million and $5 million. But he still holds Apple in his Oppenheimer and Deutsche accounts.
“He’s set up on the dividend side. The stocks pay income to own them long term,” says Nolen. High dividend payers include AT&T, with a 5.3 percent dividend yield, and Verizon, which yields 4.7 percent.
And although Comcast cut its broadcast ties to Trump for his comments about Mexican immigrants, he still owns Comcast shares worth about $500,000.
What strikes investment advisers most is that Trump’s real interest is building his licensing and brand name – and a presidential run adds serious juice to that value.
Nolen is convinced that Trump has no interest in being president but rather in selling himself.
Explains Nolen: “He’s talking his own book.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150727_What_the_experts_say_about_Trump_s_stock_portfolios.html#Sv0Tyywye0o2HzHi.99
How to do basic due diligence on your broker
ERIN E. ARVEDLUND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2015
How can we investigate whether our Wall Street broker is a bad actor before we lose money?
Let’s take the case of Malcolm Segal. The Bucks County man was charged last week with swindling people out of $1.8 million through an investment scam that promised unusually high rates of return, according to the federal indictmentagainst him in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
What could investors have found on Segal before giving him money?
A quick review of the BrokerCheck.org database, maintained by the FINRA securities regulator, reveals customer complaints dating back years.
Do some basic due diligence on your broker via BrokerCheck (brokercheck.finra.org) and via the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investment Adviser Search, another database (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov).
Type in his or her name or firm. Pay close attention to “Disclosures” outlining disciplinary history.
“When you see something like Segal’s background,” said Kathleen McBride, founder of FiduciaryPath in New York City, “to me it indicates it’s a pattern with his previous and current firm. If you see disclosure events like that, proceed with extreme caution.”
Red Flag No. 2: Returns that are too good to be true.
Segal claimed the CDs he sold paid up to a 12 percent annual interest rate for a two-year investment of $100,000. Instead, Segal allegedly spent the money to pay off earlier investors in what authorities say was a $15 million Ponzi scheme.
“With an average CD rate of under 1 percent, someone who is offering a CD at a guaranteed rate of 12 percent is offering a product that is too good to be true,” Louis D. Lappen, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, said in a statement.
“Why buy CDs from a broker and pay a commission, when you can buy them from a bank directly?” McBride said. “Something didn’t smell right about the high returns.”
Red Flag No. 3: Wall Street firms sometimes hire tainted brokers, who scuttle from one brokerage to another despite disciplinary records with FINRA.
BrokerCheck and the SEC’s investment adviser database have a wealth of information about the firms employing shady brokers. Despite his record, Segal kept finding new jobs.
“Segal and others remain in business because someone will hire them, as long as the regulators don’t suspend or revoke hislicense,” said Philadelphia securities lawyer Nick Guiliano, who sues brokers and brokerage firms on behalf of aggrieved investors.
Guiliano and his law firm are investigating whether Segal engaged in unauthorized sales of certificates of deposit to Aegis customers.
“Aegis has a duty to supervise him and is responsible for his conduct,” Guiliano said. “Segal actually disclosed that he was president of J&M Financial and partner of a company called National CD Sales. That should have raised a red flag to Aegis as an outside business activity. Aegis was supposed to come to Langhorne and do an audit.”
Guiliano has sued Aegis before on behalf of other investors.
One area broker Guiliano is suing had seven complaints against him with regulator FINRA and had been fired from two firms, while another broker had outstanding tax liens and had bounced several checks over the years.
Nicholas C. Harbist, Segal’s onetime lawyer from the Center City law office of Blank Rome, said he hasn’t entered an appearance as Segal’s defense lawyer in this case. Segal did not return calls seeking comment. A trial date for Segal is set for Sept. 9 in federal court in Philadelphia.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150713_How_to_do_basic_due_diligence_on_your_broker.html#vT8uf3bQjFq5CUbA.99
ERIN E. ARVEDLUND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
POSTED: Sunday, July 5, 2015
Close to retirement and ready to date again?
First, listen to Barbara Sluppick’s tale.
She logged into her online-dating account and up popped an instant message. Head over heels in love, a man had written: “I saw your profile, I knew you were the one angels sent me!”
He was British and lived in Arizona.
“We chatted online for about three weeks,” she recalls. He phoned, begging to visit, but couldn’t access his British bank account. Could she help him?
“As soon as I heard his voice, I knew he wasn’t British. He was Nigerian.” Sluppick recognized the accent from one of her Nigeria-born friends at work.
“You’re not who you said you are,” she snapped.
Sluppick, a grandmother, had been romance-scammed.
As baby boomers and retirees venture online to date, they’re falling in love with frauds in record numbers.
Romance scammers specifically target Americans age 50 and up and robbed them of an estimated $82 million in the last half of 2014 alone. Most dating fraudsters operate from Russia, Malaysia, and Africa.
It’s gotten so bad that senior lobbying group AARP wants online dating sites to install stronger antifraud measures, circulating a petition among its members (https://action.aarp.org).
AARP members even complain about scam artists on AARP’s partner dating site, called HowAboutWe.com. (Many dating sites take little legal responsibility for policing scammers.)
Sluppick, who lives in Rockaway Beach, Mo., created a website, RomanceScams.org, to counsel the defrauded. A decade later, she and her volunteers can barely keep up with victims from all around the United States.
Sometimes, the family of those scammed online ask her to intervene and exposer the fraudster.
“And the smarter the victim,” she notes, “the harder it is to convince them they’re being scammed.”
The average loss: $100,000.
Algorithmic relief. AARP wants online dating sites to screen photos for facial recognition; scrub subscribers for suspicious multiple accounts, bizarre language, and fake profiles; and issue alerts to those contacted by someone using a fraudulent profile.
Currently, Zoosk.com offers photo verification for its dating site.
To protect yourself, do a little online stalking of your own. Download your date’s picture, then paste it into Google’s “search by image” to see if that person’s photo shows up in other places under a different name. That’s a sign of a scam artist.
So is bad spelling. Paste a potential suitor’s love notes online to see if the words pop up elsewhere or on romance-scam sites.
Women and men. The FBI ranked romance scams among the nation’s top frauds in 2014. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) says women suffer 82 percent of the financial losses; males, the remaining 18 percent.
Among top states for victim losses, Pennsylvania ranked fifth in the nation; New Jersey was No. 8. (No.1 was California.)
In Pennsylvania, men and women 60 years and older lost $3.4 million and $3.2 million, respectively, last year.
Not in uniform. Dating a soldier stationed overseas? Be advised: Real military personnel don’t use Western Union or Money Gram. All military have direct deposit to Stateside banks, too.
“Stop sending money to persons on the Internet who claim to be in the U.S. military,” said Chris Grey, an Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesman.
“It is heartbreaking to hear stories of people who have sent thousands of dollars to someone they have never met and sometimes have never even spoken to on the phone,” he says.
Grey maintains a database of fake military documents that romance scammers use to trick victims (www.cid.army.mil/romancescam.html). Military Romance Scams has a useful Facebook page where you can ask questions about servicemen and -women you are matched with online.
Don’t give out your last name, address, or where you work until long after you’ve met your date, says Amy Nofziger, director of AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.
Turn off your phone’s location settings so no one can see where you are. And be cautious of people who claim the romance was destiny or fate, or that if you don’t send money or help, you don’t love them.
Post-scam. Sluppick supports victims of romance scams, helping them heal from their experience and educate the public. Entirely run by volunteers, her support group (groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/romancescams/info) has more than 60,000 members.
If you’ve been scammed, report your losses to local police, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), or the Federal Trade Commission online (www.ftc.gov/idtheft) or by phone (1-877-438-4338) or TTY (1-866-653-4261).
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150705_Untrue_Love.html#Y6TgiWmurBGId32r.99
Investors: stay away from Puerto Rican municipal bonds
ERIN E. ARVEDLUND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
POSTED: Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 1:08 AM
Unless you’re a professional investor, avoid Puerto Rico’s municipal bonds, financial planners advise. Otherwise, you could face a protracted default process rivaling Greece’s.
Already, investors have withdrawn hundreds of millions of dollars from mutual funds holding Puerto Rican munis, according to Lipper Inc., a unit of Thomson Reuters, citing the first five months of 2015.
And that was before Monday, when Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla admitted that the commonwealth can’t repay more than $70 billion in debt.
“Governor Padilla reversed himself from earlier commitments” to make good on bond payments, says local money manager David Kotok, of Cumberland Advisors in Vineland, who holds some Puerto Rico bonds.
“Did Padilla take notes from watching his colleagues in Greece six thousand miles away?” Kotok asks. “It’s a question without an answer.”
For retail investors, it’s a danger zone.
“I have five analysts working on this. It’s easier for us to understand what’s going on, but retail investors should avoid this,” Kotok says.
Jonathan Smith, of DT Investment Partners in Chadds Ford, agrees. “If you need to live off of your assets, avoid mutual funds with Puerto Rico bonds in them,” he says.
If you already own them, “get out now and quickly,” advises Smith, whose firm oversees $1 billion in assets.
Latino business and political leaders here contend that the brain drain of thousands of Puerto Ricans, many of them young people, contributed to its problems. Opportunities are greater in cities on the mainland.
About four million Puerto Ricans live in the continental United States. And 50 percent of the growth in Latinos in the Philadelphia region came as Puerto Ricans moved here in the last 10 years, says former City Councilman Angel Ortiz.
But Padilla’s threat to default doesn’t help the island’s underlying economy.
“Puerto Rico is now a fully owned subsidiary of Wall Street,” Ortiz says.
“I’m terribly concerned,” says Philadelphia physician Carmen Febo. “I have a sister that has been having issues finding employment. With this crisis, who knows how this will affect interest rates and savings. It’s horrible.”
Born in Puerto Rico, Febo moved here in the 1970s for her residency at Hahnemann Hospital and is now executive director of Taller Puertorriqueno, an arts organization in North Philadelphia.
“Unlike [with] Detroit and Chicago, the White House wants to be Pontius Pilate and wash their hands of this mess,” she says.
Philadelphia’s boom in Latino immigrants has, however, helped the local economy.
In its first “State of Latino Business in the Philadelphia Region” report, the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Temple University’s Fox School of Business found that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses had grown 28 percent, to 18,787, in less than a decade.
These businesses are located across 11 counties in the region, according to Varsovia Fernandez, head of the Chamber.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150701_Investors__stay_away_from_Puerto_Rican_municipal_bonds.html#4K66M8teFxVGVJDY.99
Their retirement dream has them caring for 5 adopted kids.
Erin E. Arvedlund, Inquirer Staff Writer
John and Jane Thomas plan to retire in a few years. He’s a state prison warden; she’s a chaplain.
Their retirement plan? Raising five adopted children. The youngest is currently 7 years old.
Most baby boomers and soon-to-be retirees dream of escaping the rat race at work and pushing adult children out of the nest, then maybe hitting the road or golfing nonstop.
Not the Thomases.
The couple – John is 55, Jane is 53 – have a flock of adopted foster children.
Isaiah, 21, Alaina, 20, and Jonathan, 16, joined the Thomas family in 2006.
“They were considered ‘special needs’ in the foster system because they were siblings,” John Thomas recalls.
In 2012, Dontae came to live with the Thomas family and is now heavily involved in track and football.
Jordan was adopted the day he was born. Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, he’s now 7.
“Yeah, I’m 55, and I have a first grader!” John Thomas says, laughing.
The superintendent of the State Correctional Institution-Chester, in Delaware County, John didn’t have children from his first marriage.
But “I always had been in giveback mode. I believe in mentoring young men and thought, ‘What’s a way that I can do permanent mentoring?’ ”
Jane Thomas has adult children from her previous marriage. After she and John wed in 2009, he was game to adopt, but she laid down some conditions: “If you want kids, you have to scale back on travel” and board membership with the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice.
The bigger picture
Many teenagers were aging out of foster care and “ending up in my criminal justice system,” John says. “Even 21-year-olds want to be adopted. They still want a family to call their own. In college on Christmas break, they want to go somewhere. They want to call someone to take pictures at their prom and be proud of them.”
Financially, the Thomases’ “Brady Bunch” family makes little sense.
Jane and John will live on his state pension once he retires in a few years. Jane returned to work full time about six months ago.
Paying for college won’t be as burdensome because two children adopted as teenagers can claim themselves as independents.
“That’s a nice benefit. When they put in for financial aid, they don’t claim my income,” John says.
But the Thomases have expenses – including a $500-a-week food bill.
So why do this?
“We are put here for things we can’t take with us. To care for each other. When you’re retiring, you have nothing but time. What a way to invest in the life of another who’s never had a mom or dad,” he says.
“Most of my peers are wondering, ‘Will my 401(k) last? Will I have enough money in retirement? When can I start gallivanting around?’ We won’t live a life of luxury. We’ll have enough.”
The Thomases encourage other retirees to think about adopting.
“We are not perfect parents,” he says. “They don’t exist. Kids don’t need perfect parents, just unselfish people.”
The age of potential adoptive parents has risen.
“Society is different today, with 60 being the new 40,” says Gloria Hochman, spokeswoman for the National Adoption Center in Center City. “Now, it’s not unusual that we hear from someone 55 years old or older who wants to adopt.”
Eligible children have grown older, too. Adoption used to be associated primarily with babies.
“But most of our children are over age 10, and many are teenagers or even 20 years old. They still want a family,” says Hochman.
“Older people are wonderful candidates for older children,” she says. “It makes a lot of sense for someone in their 50s or 60s to have a child that age.”
There’s no age limit to adopt older children, says Kathleen Creamer, supervising attorney at the Family Advocacy Unit, Community Legal Services in Center City.
“At 85 you can adopt, as long as you are healthy enough and able to care for the kids.”
She refers interested seniors to the website http://adoptpakids.org.
A wider view
Some people take in children through what’s known as “kinship” care.
In Pennsylvania, the state must first look for extended family of potential foster children, says Bucks County Court Judge Robert J. Mellon, who adjudicates foster cases.
But non-blood relatives, caregivers deeply involved in a child’s life – a babysitter, a best friend’s parents, a teacher – also can become a child’s guardian.
“You can be someone the child has a relationship with and still be considered under kinship,” says Mellon. “It’s an expansive definition of family.”
Erin E. Arvedlund
Inquirer Staff Writer
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Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150628_Family_401_k_.html#tuebWF2fE8fHjkMo.99
When unscrupulous debt collectors try to take advantage, there are ways to fight back.Erin E. Arvedlund, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: Sunday, June 21, 2015, 3:01 AM
Older Americans now carry debt well into retirement. And debt collectors are circling.Just ask Shirley Latham, 70, of Northern Liberties. She had to file a complaint with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after an unscrupulous dentist contracted debt collectors to try to make her pay for dental work he never performed.
The share of older Americans carrying debt into their retirement years is the highest since 1989. A record 66 percent of households in debt are headed by people age 65 to 74, according to 2013 Federal Reserve data.
“Consumers told us that debt collectors threatened to garnish their benefits from Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, and VA benefits, even though these funds usually can’t be garnished,” the CFPB’s Nora Eisenhower and Holly Petraeus wrote last month.
Learn your rights and fight back.
Don’t be intimidated. Threatening calls at odd hours, abusive language, and revealing account information to others are tactics debt collectors use that violate consumer rights. Widow or widower? Debt collectors may harass you over “decedent debt” from your spouse, medical or other debt that does not belong to you, or that has been paid already.
Federal benefits are off-limits. Debt collectors cannot garnish all your Social Security income or your veterans’ benefits. Some collectors lie and threaten that they can.
If you receive Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance, or VA benefits, your bank or credit union must protect two months’ worth from garnishment. (Garnishment happens when a collector wins a lawsuit against you for a debt and can ask your bank or credit union to turn over money in your account to pay it.) Your bank must send you a notice to freeze your account. Then a judge decides whether the money should be turned over.
There are exceptions, such as government debts including back taxes, federal student loans, and debts for child or spousal support. But need-based benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income, are protected from garnishment – even to pay a government debt, child support, or spousal support.
Seek legal help. That’s what Latham did. She said that she was proud of her “very good” credit and that debt collectors could have damaged that. So Latham worked with Clarifi, a Philadelphia-based credit-counseling nonprofit, to file a complaint against the dental office and Citi Financial.
“The $3,250 he charged was too high. They browbeat me to death,” she recalls. “I couldn’t get out of the chair before he had the papers for me to sign. I tried to cancel the contract, but they told me I had to pay the total amount because I signed the contract even though they only did the one molding,” she says. And she never got the dentures.
Clarifi helped Latham file a complaint with CFPB and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, claiming predatory practices. The collectors stopped calling.
If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may qualify for free legal services. The Center for Elder Rights Advocacy can refer you to a local agency. Call at 1-866-949-2372 or visit http://www.legalhotlines.org.
Speak with a credit counselor. “Being uninformed or misinformed about basic consumer protections can leave a consumer vulnerable to financial abuse,” says Bruce McClary, spokesman for the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling. To speak to a certified counselor or locate an NFCC member agency near you, call 1-800-388-2227 or visit http://www.nfcc.org.
Send a sample letter.Reports of abusive debt collector phone calls, in which profanity, condescension, indignation, or rage are employed, are the most common complaints the CFPB receives.
Top things seniors should know, according to Beverly Yang, policy analyst in the agency’s Office for Older Americans: “Seniors have the right to tell a debt collector, ‘Stop contacting me,’ though that will not get rid of the debt. Or they can say, ‘Give me more information about this debt. Prove that it’s mine.’ ”
The CFPB has created sample letters both for requesting that debt collectors cease communication or that they send proof of a debt. The sample letters are available by calling 1-855-411-2372, by visiting http://www.consumerfinance.gov, or by writing to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244.
Erin E. Arvedlund
Inquirer Staff Writer
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Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150621_Debt_Rights.html#261QGpDFSBgMS6zo.99
He doesn’t just talk Vanguard; he owns every one of its funds.
Daniel P. Wiener, co-founder of Adviser Investments, is an expert on Vanguard mutual funds
ERIN E. ARVEDLUND, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Daniel P. Wiener makes a living both as a cheerleader and a critic of Vanguard, the $3 trillion Malvern-based investment firm. His company advises $3.5 billion in investor assets, much of it in Vanguard funds, but he does not advocate low-cost indexing.
Instead, he prefers actively managed Vanguard mutual funds – especially in his own retirement fund.
“I believe you can and should buy active managers,” says Wiener, who lives in Brooklyn but has “a ton of clients” in the Philadelphia area. “Buying Vanguard index funds isn’t my idea of how to make money.”
That sounds like heresy to Bogleheads, as fans of Vanguard are known. Founder John Bogle made indexing famous as a cheap way for Americans to gain exposure to the stock market.
Adviser Investments started as a newsletter, then Wiener and partners began recommending actively managed mutual funds run by Vanguard, and later others from Fidelity, BlackRock, Primecap Management, Polaris Capital Management, and Wellington Management.
What does Wiener own personally? In his Individual Retirement Account, every Vanguard mutual fund and every exchange-traded fund.
“I eat my own cooking, because I have to. I want to read all the shareholder communications for running my business. I own more Vanguard funds than any of the fund directors do. And they get paid $250,000 a year to serve on the board! It’s ridiculous,” he says, that so few mutual fund directors at Vanguard own the funds on which they sit.
“When I read [in shareholder letters] that a director has put $10,000 into a fund, it makes me crazy. Is that just so they can say they own it? Because they have a responsibility to the shareholders as a director. They don’t have enough money in the funds to have skin in the game.”
In his personal retirement account, Wiener has an extremely large allocation to equities, roughly 95 percent of his portfolio. At age 59, he can tolerate more risk than most of his clients, his wife, and children, for whom he invests more conservatively. Though he has a succession plan in place, Wiener plans to be working for a very long time.
Among his holdings: Fidelity Low-Priced Stock fund (8 percent); PIMCO All Asset (4 percent); Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade (5 percent); Fidelity International Growth (9 percent); Fidelity Mega Cap Stock (19 percent); Hartford HealthCare (6 percent); Primecap Odyssey Aggressive Growth (15 percent); Primecap Odyssey Growth (15 percent); and Vanguard Dividend Growth (18 percent). Numbers are not exact due to rounding.
“Some like the Primecap Odyssey fund I purchased because it is overseen by managers who run money for Vanguard,” also known as sub-advisers, he said.
He likes to get in funds early, such as when Primecap Odyssey was small and “didn’t get the attention early on that the Vanguard funds would.”
For clients, Wiener generally recommends a lower allocation to stocks – that is, less aggressive and with less risk.
“Especially if someone is older, their range is 60 percent to 80 percent in equities. On the other hand, we have a 92-year-old client, and the bulk of her money is invested for her teenage grandchildren, so 85 percent of the money is invested in equities” for long-term growth, he says.
With clients approaching retirement, Wiener’s team asks questions about their emotional response to markets.
“It’s good to live within your means, save as much as you can, and go through all the worksheets about spending habits. But we also ask if they get nervous when markets go down or giddy when they go up, or are they well-centered? Do they understand diversification and staying invested long term?”
Wiener doesn’t believe in retirement by robo-adviser – the latest iteration of computerized investing.
“Robo-advisers can’t understand how investors react in markets like 2008, or how they will react,” Wiener says.
To clients who need to live off their portfolios, he says this: Don’t fret over whether gains come from income.
“Income misses the point – you want gains, whether those gains come from dividends, interest or capital gains. From a tax standpoint, I’m much happier generating capital gains.”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150614_Skin_in_the_Game.html#lCjdrruBCwV256TZ.99
In my new book Open Secret, I write about how Deutsche co-CEO Anshu Jain took the bank on a roadshow for an equity raise. As far back as 2007, Jain was crowing about how much money the bank made trading Libor/interest rates. The bank had a vested interest — puns! — in manipulating the Libor rate, as did most of the other member banks that set the rate.
It’s easier for casinos to make money when they control the odds.