A FINRA arbitrator has ordered SunTrust Investment Services to pay $37,000 to an 81-year-old widower who claims his adviser lied to him about how his money was invested.

Billy Hackworth, a retired building contractor, said his SunTrust adviser sold him bonds that were much riskier than he wanted. "I understood that the principal would be safe and I would receive an interest check each month of about 6 or 7 percent," he said.

Image: Bloomberg
Image: Bloomberg

Hackworth, who represented himself in the arbitration proceeding in Richmond, Va., also won an additional $12,000 for his friend, a senior citizen for whom Hackworth served as power of attorney. Hackworth claimed that the adviser also put his friend's money in the same risky investments.

Hackworth invested over $200,000, while his friend, who was on disability, invested an undisclosed amount. Their awards represented the money Hackworth claimed they lost on the investments.

"Being in our upper 70s, neither of us would have considered this type of investment. We made it clear that we wanted the principal to be safe and draw a monthly interest," Hackworth said.

The adviser, Jaret Clinton Mutter, said he was unable to provide his side of the story without first getting clearance from his firm's compliance department. He now works for Investment Centers of America.

The investments were in unit investment trusts, according to Mutter's BrokerCheck report. Mutter had four additional client complaints involving unit investments trusts while at SunTrust, all of which were settled for amounts ranging from $3,800 to $26,000.

Mike McCoy, a spokesman for SunTrust, declined to comment.

Hackworth claimed that Mutter "dumped him into the [risky] bonds" when some of his investments matured in 2012. While he knew that the principal might fluctuate, he didn't anticipate the steady drops in value that he started noticing. Worried, he spoke to someone who "correctly advised him of what he had."

"From time to time I noticed the principal would fluctuate but was assured all was well," Hackworth said.

Mutter worked for SunTrust Investment Services from December 2007 to August 2014, according to his BrokerCheck report. He has been with Investment Centers of America since August 2014.

"I don't know why they can't do business like it should be done. Deal fair with the people is the best advertisement you can have. And that's all you gotta do," Hackworth said.