Financial Advisors Under Fire for Selling Unsuitable GWG Holdings to Unsuspecting Clients

GWG Holdings, once a promising player in the life insurance industry, is now embroiled in a web of controversy. The company’s future hangs in the balance with accusations of a Ponzi scheme, investor losses, and ongoing investigations.

A recent case by FINRA arbitration case by invetor, Michael Lombardi, who bought GWG L bonds in 2018 and 2020 is shocking the industry because an arbitrator said the bonds were not suitable for Lombardi or anyone. The broker-dealer Greenberg Financial Group and advisor David Sherwood ignored their duty to Lombardi.

The arbitrator cited GWG’s weak finances in 2020 as a warning sign missed by Greenberg and Sherwood. Lombardi first bought $80,000 of the bonds, paying 5.5% interest for two years. The principal was due after. By 2020, GWG had years of losses and negative cash flows. It was merging with another company to diversify.

Matthew Thibaut, Haselkorn & Thibaut (, commented: “Based on the calls we’ve been getting recently, it appears that some financial advisors were marketing GWG-related investments (and GWG L-Bonds in particular) to client investors who were seeking safe, conservative investments, and those clients had little or no appreciation for the level of risk they were really incurring with these investments.”

The law firm has setup up a  GWG investor hotline at 1-888-614-9356 for investors to discuss investment recovery options.

Over a decade, about 40 broker-dealers sold $1.6 billion of the life settlement-backed bonds. GWG went bankrupt in 2022, leaving investors adrift. The arbitrator awarded Lombardi $102,000 plus interest. This included $70,000 damages, $25,000 attorney fees, and $7,500 costs.

The arbitrator found Greenberg and Sherwood breached their fiduciary duty to Lombardi by recommending an unsuitable investment.

Punitive damages were denied, as there was no factual basis.

As an experienced financial writer with over a decade of expertise in examining complex investment products, I’ve closely followed the developments surrounding GWG Holdings. In this blog post, I’ll unravel the controversy’s intricacies, providing you with a clear understanding of the situation and its potential implications for investors.

Let’s explore the facts and uncover the truth behind the GWG Holdings debacle.

Key Takeaways

  • GWG Holdings, a financial services company that bought life insurance policies and sold high-risk, unrated L Bonds to fund the purchases, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2022 after facing financial difficulties, lawsuits, and SEC investigations for allegedly operating a Ponzi-like scheme that misled investors about the risks
  • The company formed the GWG Wind Down Trust in August 2023 to manage the liquidation of its assets, which include life insurance policies and alternative investments, but has struggled to realize their full value, raising concerns about the quality and liquidity of its portfolio
  • GWG Holdings faces a class-action lawsuit from L Bond investors who suffered significant losses due to the bonds’ high-risk nature, lack of credit ratings and insurance, and illiquidity, with allegations of false sales practices and suitability issues against the firm and the brokers who sold them, including Centaurus Financial
  • The controversy also involves GWG’s subsidiary, Beneficient, a Dallas – based investment firm started by Brad Heppner, which recently announced a split from GWG Holdings amidst ongoing SEC investigations into its role in the sale of over $500 million in GWG bonds
  • As the bankruptcy proceedings and potential restructuring unfold, the future of GWG Holdings remains uncertain, with investors advised to stay informed about developments in the case and explore recovery options for their losses in the high-risk L Bonds

Overview of GWG Holdings

GWG Holdings is a financial services company that specializes in acquiring life insurance policies from seniors. In 2022, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and formed the GWG Wind Down Trust to manage its assets and liabilities.

What is GWG Holdings?

GWG Holdings was a financial services company based in Dallas that purchased life insurance policies from individuals who needed money. GWG would pay the policyholder a lump sum and then continue to pay the premiums on the policy until the original policyholder died.

The company raised capital by selling bonds called GWG L Bonds to retail investors, with the promise of above-market returns.

GWG Holdings’ business model relied on buying life insurance policies and selling high-yield bonds to fund those purchases.

The company’s business model involved using the money from bond sales to buy more life insurance policies, generating income from the difference between the policy payouts and the bond interest.

Formation of GWG Wind Down Trust

GWG Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 20, 2022. As part of the bankruptcy process, the company formed the GWG Wind Down Trust on August 1, 2023. The trust’s purpose is to manage and liquidate the remaining assets of GWG Holdings and its subsidiaries, which include life insurance policies and other alternative investments.

The Wind Down Trust is responsible for winding down GWG Holdings’ business affairs and distributing the proceeds from asset sales to creditors and investors. However, the trust has faced challenges in realizing the full value of GWG Holdings’ assets.

For example, the sale of life insurance policies only generated $10 million in cash, raising concerns about the quality and liquidity of the company’s investment portfolio.

Recent updates on GWG L Bonds

GWG Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2022. The GWG L Bonds, which were sold by about 40 broker-dealers and raised close to $1.6 billion over the past decade, lacked credit rating and insurance.

Following the bankruptcy filing, GWG Wind Down Trust sold two tangible assets for approximately $10.58 million.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating GWG Holdings for their L Bonds, which have been described as a Ponzi-like scheme. Investors who purchased these high-risk, illiquid bonds through financial advisors and broker-dealers have suffered significant losses, leading to numerous lawsuits and FINRA arbitration cases against the firms that sold them.

Controversy Surrounding GWG Holdings

GWG Holdings faces lawsuits and investor losses due to the high-risk nature of its L Bonds. Some allege that GWG operated a Ponzi scheme, using new investor money to pay off existing investors.

Lawsuits and investor losses

GWG Holdings faces a class-action lawsuit from L Bond investors. The claimants accuse GWG Holdings board chairman Brad K. of wrongdoing. Investors allege false sales practices and suitability issues in their GWG Holdings Lawsuit (FINRA) Claim to recover losses.

One of the leading national investor law firms, Haselkorn & Thibaut, is offering a “GWG Holdings Investor Guide.” People can request it by going to their website or calling 1-888-614-9356.

GWG Holdings failed to pay $13.6 million in payments to GWG L bondholders as of February 2022. The company’s lost operating expenses totaled $197 million, while interest payments to investors reached $817 million.

These financial troubles have led to significant investor losses and legal action against the firm. The controversy surrounding GWG Holdings has raised questions about the company’s future and the potential restructuring that may be necessary to address its financial challenges.

Reasons for high-risk nature of GWG L Bonds

GWG L Bonds lacked credit ratings and insurance, making them high-risk investments. These bonds were illiquid, meaning investors could not easily sell them on a secondary market. GWG Holdings portrayed these bonds as low-risk, but they were non-conventional and speculative products.

Brokers received substantial commissions for selling these bonds, which raised concerns about misleading sales practices. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) took disciplinary actions against some broker-dealers for improper sales of GWG L Bonds.

These actions highlighted the lack of investor protection and the need for caution when investing in these securities. The controversy surrounding GWG Holdings has led to uncertainty about the company’s future and the potential impact on investors.

Allegations of a Ponzi scheme

GWG Holdings has been accused of operating a Ponzi scheme, where new investor money is used to pay existing investors rather than generating legitimate returns. The Bondholder Committee alleges that GWG misled investors about the risks and used their funds to pay off earlier bondholders, creating an unsustainable cycle of debt.

Centaurus Financial and other brokers are under investigation for selling these high-risk bonds to clients without proper disclosure.

GWG’s business model relied on issuing new bonds to pay interest on existing ones, a red flag for a potential Ponzi scheme. They invested heavily in illiquid alternative assets like life insurance policies, making it difficult to generate sufficient cash flow.

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The Future of GWG Holdings

GWG Holdings faces an uncertain future as it navigates bankruptcy proceedings and potential restructuring, with Beneficient’s role in the controversy adding further complexity to the situation.

Bankruptcy and potential restructuring

GWG Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2022. The company couldn’t get money from financial markets. It also had problems with regulators. These issues led to the company becoming insolvent.

It means they couldn’t pay their debts.

The company got $65 million in debtor-in-possession financing. This money will help them restructure. But the bankruptcy court still needs to approve it. When GWG Holdings successfully came out of Chapter 11, it was a big deal.

Role of Beneficient in the Controversy

GWG’s subsidiary, Beneficient, is also entangled in the controversy. The SEC is investigating the Dallas-based investment firm started by Brad Heppner. Beneficient’s parent company, GWG Holdings, sold over $500 million in bonds.

GWG bondholders own at least 142.8 million Beneficient shares (BENF).

Recently, Beneficient announced a split from GWG Holdings. Its subsidiaries now operate under the sole guidance of Beneficient’s board and management team. This move raises questions about Beneficient’s role in the GWG Holdings controversy and how it may impact investors and the ongoing investigations.


The controversy around GWG Holdings is complex and multifaceted. Allegations of a Ponzi scheme and misleading sales of high-risk L Bonds have led to significant investor losses. Despite the company’s bankruptcy filing, ongoing investigations and lawsuits continue to unravel the extent of the financial mismanagement.

Investors affected by the GWG Holdings bond losses should explore recovery options. The future of GWG Holdings remains uncertain as the bankruptcy proceedings and potential restructuring unfold.

Staying informed about developments in this case is crucial for anyone invested in or considering investing in similar financial products.


1. What is GWG Holdings, Inc., and what services do they provide?

GWG Holdings, Inc., is a financial services company that issues bonds and provides loans. It works with institutional investors and offers a high rate of return on its bond issues.

2. Why did GWG Holdings file for bankruptcy?

GWG Holdings filed for bankruptcy due to financial difficulties related to their bond portfolio, high interest rates on their debt, and issues with their financial reporting and management.

3. What role did Emerson Equity LLC and GWG Life, LLC play in the controversy?

Emerson Equity LLC was involved in the sale of GWG Holdings’ bonds, while GWG Life, LLC is a subsidiary of GWG Holdings that provided life insurance policies as collateral for their bonds. Both companies have been scrutinized for their role in the controversy.

4. Were there any concerns about the legality of GWG Holdings’ practices?

Yes, there have been concerns raised about potential violations of federal securities laws, including the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The company has also faced allegations of investment fraud.

5. How did GWG Holdings’ investment strategy contribute to its financial troubles?

GWG Holdings’ investment strategy involved using borrowed money to purchase life insurance policies, which were then used as collateral for their bond issues. This strategy was risky and left the company vulnerable to changes in interest rates and the credit markets.

6. What impact has the GWG Holdings controversy had on investors and the broader financial market?

The GWG Holdings controversy has led to significant losses for investors who purchased the company’s bonds. It has also raised concerns about the risks associated with alternative investment strategies and the need for greater transparency and oversight in the financial markets.

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