February 4, 2009                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

State Auditor fines Kalispell man $80,000 for Victimizing Two Area Seniors


      Court Upholds Auditor’s Order in Securities, Insurance Case
      
      (Helena) State Auditor Monica Lindeen announced today that a Kalispell court has upheld the Montana State Auditor’s office order fining a Kalispell man $80,000 for victimizing two elderly women in northwestern Montana. The Eleventh Judicial District Court in Kalispell upheld the Auditor’s order fining former Banker’s Life insurance agent Martin O. Bower. The order also bans Bower from becoming licensed to sell insurance for five years, and bans him from seeking any securities registration or licensure. 
      
      “This is a serious infraction of the law; a law that protects consumers and reputable agents in the industry,” said Lindeen.
      
      The case resulted from a complaint by a family concerned about their mother who is an Alzheimer’s victim.  Bower had been to the Alzheimer’s victim’s home near Ronan on several occasions in an attempt to convince her to liquidate her securities accounts to purchase an insurance product, a fixed-index annuity. 
      
      The second victim lived in an assisted living facility in Kalispell.  Bower attempted to obtain inappropriate control over her Glacier Bancorp stock certificates in order to sell her a fixed annuity. 
      
      “This is a case of an insurance agent giving investment advice without being licensed,” said Lynne Egan, Montana Deputy Securities Commissioner. “While many individuals are licensed to sell both securities and insurance products, investors should contact the State Auditor’s Office if someone is trying to convince them to sell an investment to fund an insurance product, or vice versa, and verify that the person is properly licensed and trained in both fields.”
      
      Bower appealed the Auditor’s decision a year ago saying the evidence did not support the Auditor’s order.  However, District Court Judge Ted Lympus indicated that “a review of the record establishes” there was “substantial evidence” to find Bower had committed securities fraud and violated the Montana Insurance Code.
      
      Lindeen says modern-day financial fraud artists most often prey upon unsuspecting senior citizens and fleece them out of their life savings or retirement nest eggs. “The best defense against fraud is education,” Lindeen said. “I encourage victims to contact our office. They can help prevent other Montanans from becoming victims.”
      
      The Securities Fraud Hotline at the State Auditor's Office is 1-800-332-6148.