LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A 76-year-old woman beset by health problems who sued Fisher Investments, alleging that the company founded by billionaire Ken Fisher mismanaged her trust assets and forced her to pay nearly $1 million in taxes, has died, prompting a judge to cancel a hearing in the case scheduled today.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon had been scheduled to rule on a motion to send the case before an arbitrator rather than a jury. The defense maintained that the plaintiff signed an agreement with Fisher Investments containing an arbitration clause.
Alarcon also had asked the attorneys to address whether the plaintiff could continue to be identified in her court papers only as Jane Doe. Doe's lawyers maintained she should have been able to remain anonymous in her lawsuit in order to protect her privacy, in particular her medical and financial information. The request was agreed to by Fisher Investment attorneys.
In a written ruling, the judge noted that the plaintiff's lawyers filed court papers Thursday stating that the identification issue is now moot in the wake of the woman's death. The court papers do not state when the death occurred.
Doe's lawyers also stated it is uncertain which of Doe's survivors, if any, will represent her actions going forward, which the judge cited in canceling the hearing on the arbitration motion.
In her suit filed Jan. 13, Doe alleged financial elder abuse, constructive fraud, intentional and negligent misrepresentation and putting the defendant's interests head of those of the plaintiff. She sought triple damages on the elder abuse claim and unspecified punitive damages.
The suit states Fisher Investments' success is attributable in part to “extremely aggressive advertising and sales tactics'' that include television and internet ads and “filling millions of mailboxes across the country with its flyers.''
The suit includes copies of screenshots of Ken Fisher and one of his company's ads.
Doe established the trust to hold assets she inherited from her mother and an aunt. She wanted to provide for her family and “help ensure a bright future for them,'' according to her court papers.
The woman was plagued with health problems in her adult life, including a stroke in her 50s, the suit states. She also had the majority of her liver removed, had eyesight problems that prevented her from even reading a computer screen and had been in a wheelchair since about 2014, the suit states.
Doe's husband first responded to an ad from Fisher Investments in 2009, but found a salesman to be overly aggressive and declined the company's services, according to the complaint, which says the couple nevertheless continued to receive solicitations by phone and mail. He also turned down another overture from Fisher after a dinner presentation in 2017, the suit says.
But in April 2018 a Fisher representative made a visit to the couple's home and, after reviewing financial documents reflecting the strategy of her then-money manager, called the latter's performance “woefully subpar,'' the suit states. The representative said the person had failed her by not changing the positions of her investments over the years, and maintained that Fisher Investments had the best returns compared to its competitors, the suit says.
Months later, Doe signed up with Fisher Investments to have the company take over the management of her trust assets without being offered an explanation of the terms of the agreement, the suit alleges.
In December 2018, Doe and her husband learned they would have to pay close to $1 million in taxes due to Fisher's alleged miscues with Doe's trust assets, according to the lawsuit.
In mid-May 2019, after the couple paid the taxes due, they demanded that Fisher Investments rectify their tax situation and a company representative said he would look into it, according to the suit, which says they later received a letter “flatly denying their request.''
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