Arkansas Business' People To Watch in 2009

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 12:00 am  

Clockwise from top left: William Dillard II, A. Heath Absure, Jeffrey R. Gardner, Alice Walton, Walter Hussman, Jane Duke, Bob Johnson, Mike Huckabee.

Heath Abshure

Don't be surprised to see Arkansas Securities Commissioner A. Heath Abshure ruffling some feathers in 2009.

Abshure has a lengthy list of issues he's preparing to address at the legislative session, which convenes Jan. 12.

The most contentious item on the commissioner's agenda: getting variable annuities and equity-indexed annuities defined as securities.

The amended definition would give Abshure, 35, clear authority to regulate the two types of annuities and the people who sell them.

Although Abshure doesn't have jurisdiction over annuities at a state level, they are regulated as securities on a federal level; there is, however, some current federal debate over equity-indexed annuities, Abshure said.

"So we wouldn't be adding an additional layer of regulation," Abshure said. "What we would be adding is an additional enforcement arm."

Abshure estimated that 75 percent of the complaints that the Arkansas Securities Department receives relate to variable and equity-indexed annuities.

The proposed amendment would impose a fiduciary duty on parties selling annuities.

Abshure will also seek stiffer penalties for violations of the Arkansas Securities Act, especially for violations that target senior citizens.

Abshure will petition the General Assembly for the power to levy a fine of up to $10,000 for each violation or an amount equal to the total money received from the violation. If the violator targets a senior citizen, Abshure wants the fine to be doubled – up to $20,000 or twice the amount of the money received.

"Just to say, 'OK. Cease and desist from violating the securities law,' that doesn't matter. They don't care. So there has to be something [punitive]," Abshure said.

The commissioner will also ask for the authority to place limitations, qualifications or conditions on securities licenses. Currently, if a broker- dealer or investment adviser applies for licensing in Arkansas, Abshure can only approve in whole or deny in whole.

 

 

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