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Monday, December 9, 2013

Arbitration Award Against Wells Fargo Recovers Most of Family’s Losses

Mediation and arbitration are supposed to be faster and more cost-effective than going to court. However, it was neither in a case involving the theft of millions of dollars from College Health and Investment L.P., a family-run limited partnership.

The case took more than three years to resolve as attorneys for Wachovia Securities, now part of Wells Fargo, used numerous delaying tactics before ultimately paying a $2.75 million arbitration award, said Boca Raton securities attorney Robert W. Pearce, who represented College Health.

The case grew out of Wells Fargo’s failure to detect the alleged theft and unauthorized transactions of millions of dollars by Esther Spero, whose aunt, Shari Jakobowitz, was in charge of the partnership’s accounts.

Spero was accused of misusing the family’s financial information to steal about $7 million, which she in turn lost to one-time Miami Beach developer Michael Stern, who was supposed to be investing in real estate. Instead, Stern allegedly used the money to pay off his own debts after the real estate crash while funding a lavish lifestyle.

Pearce traced most of the money and made recoveries in state court against Stern, a title company, Spero and Wachovia.

“They came up a bit short, but we came close to getting most of their money back,” Pearce said.

Then, in July, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel ordered Wells Fargo to pay $2.75 million in damages and interest for failing to detect Spero’s alleged embezzlement.

Pearce alleged bank employees went so far as to create a false power of attorney to give Spero control over the account that held most of the assets.

Had the bank enforced its own policies and procedures, as well as FINRA’s rules, it would have detected the embezzlement, Pearce argued.

“The bank had numerous red flags. It should have made inquiries to stop the movement of funds,” Pearce said.

Client Reviews
Robert Pearce is part of that unusual breed of lawyers that are able to create empathy with clients and thoroughly adopt their cause. No half efforts here. He and his group of professionals are outstanding strategists that can execute with precise fervor and unyielding determination. Theirs is a huge wave of facts, research, precedents and preparation, that has impressed me in its thoroughness and creativity, and most importantly with the results. No stone goes unturned and no effort is ever spared. In my book, he and they are those of a very rare kind that one wants to keep for a very long time. Ramon F.
This law firm is the real deal. We were so lucky that they took our case as they have so much experience in securities and all the wrongdoing that happens in these investment companies where they mislead you and your money (as in our case) into schemes that are not what you think they are. Mr. Robert Pearce is one of the best lawyers around, a truly professional who will fight for you and will tell you as it is all the time. Astrid M.
Mr. Pearce is a great professional and attorney. He led me through every step of the process in a clear, direct and straightforward manner. I highly recommend him as a securities attorney. Rey S.
Just like the song from HAMILTON, it's so nice to have Bob Pearce on your side. He is the consumate plaintiff's lawyer: smart. dedicated, fully able to try a case but a great negotiator in a mediation. He did a wonderful job for us, fully supporting us through the process and more than holding his own against a large national law firm. Maurice Z.
No lawyer except Bob said I had a chance of winning. When Ubs lawyers laughingly offered me zero to settle the dispute, Bob became even more determined to prove everybody wrong. Bob was extremely prepared, and always a step ahead of the opposing attorneys throughout the arbitration. In the end, Bob and I had the last laugh when the arbitrators awarded me almost 6 million dollars. J. Blanco