Investopedia quietly scrubbed banned advisor from 'Top 100' list – Citywire USA
On the morning of August 9th in 2021, Investopedia’s 2019 rankings of the Top 100 financial advisors in the country had 100 members.
Twenty-four hours later, the ranks had slipped to 99. A similar fate also befell the 2020 edition of the personal finance education website’s rankings.
Missing from both lists was Kim Butler, an advisor at Partners for Prosperity in the rural town of Mount Enterprise, Texas.
On August 9, Citywire reported that Butler had agreed to pay a fine of $275k after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) found that she had steered investors to the Woodbridge Group of Companies Ponzi scheme. The SEC banned Butler from working as a financial advisor as a condition of the settlement.
Investopedia did not disclose on either rankings page that it had removed Butler from the list.
When contacted by Citywire, Investopedia editor in chief Caleb Silver commented: ‘Once we were made aware of the issue, she was removed from the list as she no longer met our standards for eligibility. The Investopedia 100 is our celebration of financial advisors who use their platforms to further the cause of financial literacy and education in their communities and across the industry.’
Barron’s also publishes an annual ‘Top 100 Financial Advisers’ list, but bases its rankings on an assessment of assets, revenue and ‘quality of practice.’ Investopedia focuses on advisors’ audience engagement.
‘Investopedia’s proprietary methodology focuses on awarding financial advisors who have demonstrated a top-of-the-industry ability to reach the largest and most diverse financial and investing audience,’ the company said about the 2020 edition of its rankings. ‘That reach is measured by the impact and quality of the advisor’s published work, public appearances, online following, and commitment to financial literacy across diverse communities.’
The list methodology ‘also heavily weighed peer-to-peer nomination,’ added Investopedia, while noting that it does not endorse the advisors it names.
Butler, who has nearly 3,500 followers on Twitter, still has ample reach on social media. Though she is no longer affiliated with an RIA, Butler now runs a whole life insurance sales business known as Prosperity Thinkers.
On the company’s website, Butler’s biography touts that she has been ‘recognized as an Investopedia 100’ top influential advisor, but does not include a live link to the list.
A spokeswoman for Prosperity Thinkers said Butler ‘has had her life insurance license and been working in the life insurance industry since 1990’ and did not offer further comment. SEC records show Butler first registered as a financial advisor in 2002.
The SEC found that Butler made roughly $2.9m in commissions between May of 2015 and December of 2020 by soliciting investors in Woodbridge and four other private companies without disclosing her incentives.
These incentives granted her ‘a percentage of the price the investors paid to purchase the securities,’ the SEC said.
The Woodbridge Group of Companies pushed promissory notes and private placements and promised they would make money through the high rates of interest, ranging from 5% to 10%, which Woodbridge would receive on loans made to third-party commercial property owners of luxury real estate developments.
When the company went bankrupt in December 2017, it owed $961 million in principal to investors. Its chief executive, Robert Shapiro, was sentenced by a federal judge to 25 years in prison in 2019.
Butler’s career in the insurance business has also run afoul of regulators.
In 2016, the state of Washington accused Butler of committing fraud while selling life settlements in the state; she agreed to a cease-and-desist order in June of that year. Life settlements are transactions in which an individual sells their life insurance policy to a third-party investor for an amount greater than the policy’s cash surrender value but less than its net death benefit.
When asked about Butler, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), which regulates insurance salespeople, said that it ‘is investigating Butler and her activities.’
‘Because this is an open investigation, we are unable to further comment,’ the TDI spokesman said.
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