Since the stock market meltdown in September, Feldman, the managing partner with Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman & Smalley in Philadelphia, is seeing a lot more clients with complaints about stock brokers and financial advisors.
Right now, Feldman takes on about one out of every 12 people who come in to his office complaining about disappearing assets. "I am not taking cases where you have to convince an arbitration panel that a particular broker or brokerage firm would have needed a crystal ball to see the magnitude of the debacle," he says. "That's not realistic."
The people that Feldman does think he can help are investors whose brokers loaded them up with the wrong mix of cash, bonds and equities and exposed them to undue risk by concentrating those equities in a particular sector.
Feldman will soon be going to bat for a retired couple whose retirement portfolio was drained because of an over-concentration in financial stocks. "I would call this one of the worst cases I have ever seen," says Feldman.
Their retirement nest egg lost about $400,000 or about 60 percent of its value, in just a few months last fall. The situation is now so bleak for the couple that the husband is out testing the job market 5 years after he thought he was retired for good.
"The brokerage firm had the couple invested 80 percent in equities and the rest was in a variable annuity with underlying risky investments," says Feldman. "It is sad, because his wife is disabled and he may need the money to care for his wife and he is really in a bad situation now."
Feldman is confident that through arbitration he can recover some of the losses from the brokerage firm that this elderly couple relied on for good advice and an appropriate investment strategy. "I always argue that when people go to a broker they expect that broker to be professional and put their client's interests first," he says.
Brokers typically argue that their clients were fully informed. "That is pretty hollow when you have people who really don't know what it is all about," Feldman says. " I am not saying a broker wants to loose people's money, but the only way you can help people and protect them is to stick to the basic rules of asset allocation. You have to balance the risk and don't let your clients be over-concentrated in any one sector."
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In his spare time, Feldman is pursuing a Master's degree in community counseling. "Getting a client a good economic recovery is good, but I want to understand people better. That's important to me."
Joel Feldman's personal injury practice includes cases arising from dangerous products and construction site accidents, nursing home neglect, dangerous conditions on properties, automobile and truck accidents, medical and dental malpractice and alcohol-related accidents. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Vermont (1976) and his law degree from Villanova University School of Law (1981).