CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Clients of a well-known financial advisor in the Charlotte area claim he squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars by investing in a risky business. That’s according to complaints filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The company he invested in is facing a lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
James "Jim" Heafner and viewers may recognize him. Heafner paid for sponsored content on WBTV's lifestyle program Morning Break. That relationship ended in November 2017. Heafner also advertised on WBTV until February 2018.
According to FINRA, Heafner was fired from a company for his outside business activities. Heafner confirmed to WBTV it was related to investments he made for his clients.
Heafner is accused of investing clients' money in 1st Global Capital according the complaints filed with FINRA. 1st Global is a South Florida company that has now had its assets frozen by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC claims that 1st Global was paying commissions to registered and unregistered investment advisors to fraudulently raise $287 million in investments. According to the SEC court filing, the owner of 1st Global put $35 million into his own pocket or his own companies. The SEC also claims 1st Global falsified financial information, including the return on investment.
In a phone call with WBTV Heafner stated "Everything we saw about it (1st Global) looked really good and everything looked safe as it could possibly be.
"(I) made a recommendation based upon what we believed to be true," Heafner said.
On the FINRA website three customers of Jim Heafner claim he was negligent in investing their money in 1st Global. They say the losses add up to almost a half a million dollars.
I asked Heafner if he received commissions from 1st Global.
"I did receive commissions on this like most anything else that certainly wasn't the motivating factor," Heafner said.
He did not tell WBTV how much he made in commission or whether it was more than other security commissions. Heafner estimated he had 45 clients whose money he invested in 1st Global.
WBTV obtained a letter a client says was sent to them from Heafner. The client does not wish to be named. In it Heafner compares himself to Captain 'Sully' Sullenberger, the pilot who landed the plane in the Miracle on the Hudson.
The letter reads "I always did the best for my clients and like Sully I am being accused of making the wrong call by clients, authorities and attorneys."
It also reads "The authorities say I didn’t follow protocol. And that i should lose my licenses for my mistake.
Heafner’s material on WBTV was paid advertising and paid sponsored content and was not endorsed by WBTV. That relationship ended in February 2018. Six months later Heafner was terminated from the company that employed him. He is no longer a registered broker according to information publicly available on the FINRA and SEC websites.