C. Thomas Thames challenges Peter Dzoghi and promises $5,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Since April 2011 Peter Dzoghi (aka RePete, Pete Dzoghi, and Peter Zoghi) has used several aliases and anonymous reviews to make complaints about variable annuity business that he did with me about 20 years ago. His primary complaint seems to be that I recommended several annuity exchanges solely for the purpose of generating commissions and that he unknowingly paid large surrender charges as a result of those exchanges. I deny those charges and I am offering a $5,000 contribution to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital if Peter will help me obtain and publish the facts. Not the facts as Peter sees them, and not the facts as I see them; but the facts contained in the official insurance company records of the transactions.
You can read my comprehensive response to Peter’s accusations by going to www.cthomasthames-peterdzoghi.com and clicking on the link Response to Peter Dzoghi at the top of the page. That response reflects what I believed at the time and this article will serve as an update. I now acknowledge that Peter has provided evidence that he in fact did pay substantial surrender charges. The question still unanswered is why. Peter says it was because I wanted to generate more commissions. There is no doubt that I earned commissions but if that had been the only reason I made the recommendations I seriously doubt that the insurance companies would have accepted the business. Even 20 years ago agents had to have a reasonable explanation for replacing an annuity. Today the replacement rules are far more stringent.
If we printed everything that Peter and I have written since he began complaining last year we would have a lot of paper but all we would know for sure is that I sold Peter one or more variable annuities; I recommended that he exchange one or more of those annuities; Peter apparently agreed with my recommendations because he made the exchanges; and he paid a substantial amount of surrender charges.
The questions still unanswered are: Why did I recommend the exchanges? Was Peter aware of the surrender charges that he would incur when he made the exchanges? Were there any positive market value adjustments involved? This third item is critical and we will need to actually see the contracts and other company documents to get the answer. Peter says he has checked with the companies and that there were no market value adjustments but we need to see that in writing.
It’s very simple; Peter either wants all of the truth to be known or he doesn’t. If he does he should be willing to give me the names of all of the insurance companies that were involved and the annuity contract numbers the funds were moved to and from. If he doesn’t want the truth to be known I suggest that it’s because he fears that the insurance company records will show that I had legitimate reasons for recommending the exchanges and that he was in fact aware that there would be surrender charges.
I am as anxious as anyone to know why I recommended the exchanges and the only way we will ever know is if the insurance companies give us the information. It has been 20 years so I hope they still have the records and that they will be willing to give us copies. I know I acted in good faith and I am willing to accept and live with whatever the records prove.
Anyone who believes that Peter or anyone else could complete several annuity exchanges and not be aware that they had been charged such large surrender charges would have to believe in the tooth fairy. I cannot recall one insurance company that does not disclose the surrender charges on the closing statement to the client. And all variable annuity providers are required to provide a prospectus at or before the date of purchase. Those prospectuses provide information about risks, surrender charges, fees, and commissions paid to the selling firms. I am confident that Peter got a prospectus for every variable annuity that he purchased from me and he has never denied that. He may deny that I told him about surrender charges but he shouldn’t blame me if he failed to read or remember what was in the prospectus.
We can settle this dispute very easily. All Peter has to do is give me the names of the insurance companies and the annuity contract numbers. And even though I was the writing agent it is possible that he will have to provide written authorization for the documents to be sent directly to me.
If the insurance companies give me copies of the original purchase records and the annuity exchange records (including the closing statements) and if those records do not support my contention that the surrender charges were disclosed to Peter, I will mail a $5,000 check to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I will also mail Peter a copy of the receipt for the contribution and post a copy on www.cthomasthames-peterdzoghi.com. Please note that I will need documentation directly from all of the companies that were involved and for every annuity contract that funds were transferred to and from. This offer will expire November 30, 2012. That should give Peter plenty of time to decide whether or not he is willing to help me publish the truth.
I will never be able to prove that I told Peter about the surrender charges and he will never be able to prove that I didn’t. But I believe the insurance companies will confirm that Peter received written disclosure of the surrender charges when he purchased each of the annuities and that the surrender charges he actually paid were disclosed on his closing statements. The surrender charges were certainly disclosed in the annuity contracts that were issued to Peter. If Peter didn’t read the prospectuses, the annuity contracts, or the closing statements who is to blame for that? Peter calls that kind of thinking “blaming the victim” but I think most people will call it common sense.
Peter has said that I used variable annuities as “trading vehicles” and has suggested that I may still believe they are. He’s wrong. I don’t think they are trading vehicles and I never have. The records will show that I haven’t sold a variable annuity since 2001 so I think it’s pretty obvious that I am not using them for “trading”.
But I am not denying that I recommended one or more annuity exchanges. I don’t recall the reasons and apparently Peter doesn’t either but the insurance companies may be able to tell us. I will be surprised and disappointed if the insurance company records show that I didn’t have good reasons for my recommendations but I will be very happy to have the truth out in the open. Peter may not be so happy about exposing the truth. The truth will make it difficult for him to continue speculating about my motives and making accusations that he cannot defend. He might do it anyway but at some point people will reach the conclusion that he has whined long enough. The official records will speak for themselves and nothing that Peter or I say will change them. That works for me.
If I am able to obtain all of the records and publish the facts about my recommendations and the surrender charges, I will make a $1,000 contribution even if the records show that Peter was aware of the surrender charges.
I can’t legally offer Peter one dime for his cooperation and I wouldn’t even if I could. However, last year (April 2011) when Peter started his attacks, I promised to do all that I could to expose the entire truth and I am certainly willing to spend money to do it. If Peter is true to form he will probably try to make something negative out of my offer but the truth is all I am after. Not part of the truth, the whole truth.
I believe the charitable contribution offer is an honorable way for me to give Peter some incentive to help me disclose the facts and I believe that disclosing all of the facts is the honorable thing for Peter to do whether he accepts my offer or not. If Peter accepts my offer he can rest assured that I will publish the facts as I receive them and that I will promptly keep my promise to donate $5,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Prior to publishing anything I receive from the insurance companies I will block out any reference to Peter’s home address, phone numbers, social security number, account numbers, the dollar amount of the transactions and any other private information that is not pertinent to my goal of publishing why the recommendations were made and whether or not Peter was aware of the surrender charges.
Peter seems to think that I was wrong to ever deny his accusations. That makes no sense at all. Anyone who uses aliases to make accusations can’t honestly expect the accused to admit anything. Peter has a right to freedom of speech and the accused has a right to know his accuser. I don’t think many Americans would disagree with that. For a long time I didn’t even know who was complaining and since Peter waited 20 years to complain I had no records of any transactions or surrender charges even remotely similar to what he described. Once I figured out that it was Peter Dzoghi I could at least acknowledge that I had done business with him and begin to address the specific issues. If Peter had identified himself things would have been different from the beginning. As recently as August 14, 2012 Peter used a new alias (Sacramento Kings) to continue his accusations. If I hadn’t done some investigating and been able to identify Peter I still wouldn’t know who was complaining.
I suppose anyone can see that I don’t care much for aliases and anonymous reviews. I believe we all have the right and maybe even an obligation to be heard, but I don’t think we should do it covertly. Long before I heard of the internet or personal computers I read something that I have never forgotten. “Stand up and let the world know who you are. Write your name on the scrolls and speak the truth. If you cast disparaging remarks be bold but fair. Shout your message to the masses if you must but let those you criticize or offend be the first to hear. You will not be alone. Many honorable people have done so before you.”
I found those handwritten words many years ago on a tablet that some soldier left on a bunk at the 7th Army NCO Academy in Bad Tolz, Germany. I had just arrived for noncommissioned officer training and I suppose he had just graduated and was on his way back to his regular post. I never knew who he was but I have always hoped that he remembered what he wrote because I thought they were such powerful and inspiring words. His words have guided me most of my life and I hope that I was only one of many who got to read them. He had also written a little love poem to his wife or girl friend and I showed it to my wife many years later. She thought it was the most beautiful poem she had ever read. I have forgotten many things that happened since my Army days but I remember every word he wrote on that tablet.
My offer won’t put a nickel in Peter’s pocket but I hope that he will see it as a sincere effort on my part to disclose the truth and as an opportunity to support a very worthy cause. What others think of it is not important to me but before some cynical person claims it is a form of bribery let me put that to rest once and for all. The very thought of offering anyone a bribe is repugnant to me and I am quite sure that Peter would be offended by it. I certainly would be. If Peter accepts my offer it will not be for financial gain.
C. Thomas Thames a.k.a. Tom Thames
C. Thomas Thames, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
September 4, 2012