Let me begin this entry by saying that what I am about to explain is very difficult for me, because I hate to do anything that would be perceived as hurting the cause of Christ or creating division within the Kingdom. The last thing the world needs to see is another scandal involving a Christian leader.
But the defense of the truth allows me to do nothing less than to reveal that Larry Bates one of the best-known financial advisors in America – hasn’t been coming through with promised and owed deliveries of precious-metals orders to his customers.
Bates’ company, First American Monetary Consultants Inc. (FAMC), a Memphis-based, Christian business selling precious metals, is currently sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars of paid-for quantities of gold and silver that have been purchased by clients but not shipped to them after extremely unreasonable periods of time have elapsed, in some cases many months.
Several clients have been attempting for weeks and months to get Bates to deliver the gold and silver that is due them. Making customers wait any more than a few weeks for precious-metals shipments is extremely unusual and is considered highly unprofessional, and worse, by other financial advisors who sell gold and silver.
For several months, ending last fall, I served as a contractor for FAMC and brought several clients to the company with precious-metals sales. Some of those clients are among those to whom Bates hasn’t delivered their purchases or those to whom he delivered purchases only after an extended time, or with changes he made unilaterally to the order; in some cases Bates made the shipments only after clients’ threats of legal action.
Bates has not responded to repeated requests by me, on behalf of Unreported World News and my clients, to explain his actions. Most recently, those requests have come in the form of e-mail messages and faxed messages.
These attempts to reach him followed my sending Bates four letters beginning in early December demanding that he pay me my commissions for sales I knew he had completed in November. Bates’ response was a December 8 e-mail in which he accused me of fraud. Each time, I also explained that I would continue to follow up and see to it that my clients received their shipments.
My attorney, Gregory Jones, also has sent demand letters for payment to FAMC; Jones also represents a number of my clients in this matter. Bates’ most recent response to these demands, in a letter dated April 14, also avoided the issue of undelivered orders to my clients and accused me of “not follow[ing] company policies and [making] false representations and promises to clients and potential clients.”
On the contrary, however, my clients have repeatedly thanked me for my “integrity” and for not leaving them hanging. None of them were contacted by FAMC about my dissociation with FAMC until very recently.
In early March, Bates finally contacted three of my clients whose metals shipments were long overdue and offered either to ship them their metals immediately or return their funds. Apparently Bates was responding to these women’s concerns because of my repeated demands.
My prayer is that Bates will correct these issues immediately and stop selling metals altogether, and that my former clients and all clients of FAMC will be serviced in a timely manner from here on out.
But Bates hasn’t responded forthrightly and in a timely manner to requests for order fulfillment from me, my clients, and other FAMC clients – or at least hasn’t responded with explanations for the delays in fulfillment.
That is a real shame, given how Bates has positioned himself as a trusted financial advisor to the thousands of Christians who are his clients, subscribe to his newsletters, read his books, attend his conferences, and hear and see him on various religious mass media.
Bates has been a frequent guest on Christian radio and television, especially since summer, 2008. He has appeared on shows hosted by Sid Roth, David Cerillo, and J.R. Church, and on the Point of View radio talk show hosted by Kirby Anderson.
Questions Without Answers
While Bates’ actions are ethically very dubious and highly irregular in a secular context, it is necessary to understand that he professes to make his appearances, conduct his marketing and sell FAMC’s products out of Christian concern for the finances of fellow believers.
Bates conducts conferences across America about the Biblical end times and the economy. At these seminars he offers clients the opportunity to buy metals and have
IRAs and 401(k) accounts rolled into precious metals.
He passes out a flyer titled, “Stormproofing Your Assets.” This slick, four-color brochure explains that unless gold and silver are purchased properly, clients run the risk of having their purchases “confiscated” when the economy collapses and the New World Order takes over.
Bates insists that the only silver clients should purchase or roll into their IRAs is coins. He specifically teaches not to purchase bars. In addition, he recommends that only certain types of gold coins be purchased because they were not confiscated under the Emergency Powers Act during the Great Depression. Bates also says that he “cherry picks” available supplies so that he obtains only the right kind of gold.
But his and his company’s behavior haven’t matched up with these claims, raising a number of questions.
First, why did Bates roll my clients’ IRAs into bars last November?
Second, how come other reputable gold dealers are not concerned with the issue of “cherry-picking”? I have sold clients gold from other sources, including U.S. $20-“libs,” and I received the metals that I shipped to them in less than a week. This gold looks exactly like the supposedly exclusive version for which Bates insists his clients must wait a long time.
Third, if Bates is so concerned about people getting their metals confiscated by the government, why is it taking FAMC so long to get clients their metals?
Some of the Sheep
Being unable to answer these questions for my clients launched me into an investigation of the answers for them and for myself. Normally, financial issues like this are strictly confidential between a financial advisor and clients. But in the cause of trying to understand Bates’ practices and to encourage his accountability to his clients, several of my clients and other FAMC clients agreed to share their stories publicly.
Clients from across the country have reported difficulties with this company. Among those are widows who have trusted FAMC and who have had to wait many months to receive their gold purchases.
A client of mine from Texas was the widow of a Baptist minister. She and her new husband came under extreme duress over her trusting Bates with a significant portion of her retirement portfolio. She was new to the concept of using precious metals instead of paper money for financial protection. However, when she attended one of my prophecy meetings, she began to understand and be open to the idea that paper currency has no value in a debt-based economy. She also attended a Bates Perilous Times Seminar and even met Bates and could not believe “that nice man” held her money, without delivering her metals, since September, 2008.
Among several other clients of FAMC, she and her husband contacted the Texas Attorney General. Finally, a few weeks ago, Bates himself contacted Lemon and made her the offer of immediate shipment of her gold, or a refund. She is one of just a very few of my own FAMC clients whom Bates or his representatives have contacted in recent days to attempt to settle their grievances.
Joanne Sternberg, a woman in her seventies, from Whiting, N.J., tells another very disturbing story. Sternberg watched Bates on a Christian TV program and proceeded to send him the majority of her retirement money in October, 2008. She had been extremely distraught over not having received the thousands of dollars in precious metals that she ordered from Bates. When she recently sent me a thank you note for helping her finally receive her metals, she encouraged me to contact an agency she knows who scrutinizes dishonest Christian ministries. Sternberg lives nearly on just the proceeds from her small Social Security check.
A 43-year-old, self-employed woman from Phoenix, Charmaine Tickle, sent me this statement. “I am extremely upset at the fact that I had directed FAMC [Larry Bates’ organization] to purchase American Silver Eagle coins for me, and in fact they purchased a 1000 oz. bar instead. I was given no notification of this change in my order, nor was I given the chance to give my permission for this change to take place. The only way I found out about it is when I checked my Gold Star Trust account online and saw that it was purchased that way!”
Also, Tickle was told by a representative in the Ft. Collins, Colo., office of FAMC that once the Silver Eagles become available this year, the company will use their monthly allotments to start filling all of their back orders. The past (oldest) orders will be filled first, in chronological order up to the present orders. Tickle was told that they will notify her as to when this will happen, and then sell her silver bars and purchase the Silver Eagle coins for her account.
“I am also very upset that my precious metals were not purchased by FAMC and funded to my (IRA) account until November, 2008,” Tickle wrote to me. “I had been waiting since September, 2008, for the purchases to occur. I received no notification of the delay in [fulfillment].”
Another FAMC client disturbed by his interactions with FAMC is Mark Stokes, a 54-year-old business owner from Colleyville, Tex. He attended a seminar Bates conducted and ordered his gold in early August, 2008. “Where is my gold?” Stokes repeatedly asked. FAMC representatives told him that it was coming from Europe and that he should be patient. Finally in January, 2009, he received the small shipment, still unable to understand what took so long.
Diane, a 57-year-old lab technician from New York who spoke on condition of anonymity, hired Jones, the attorney, to help her obtain the gold and silver she ordered in July, 2008, after seeing Bates on The Jewish Voice television show and ordering his book. She was highly critical of Bates in her comments to me. She said that when she called FAMC in November, 2008, to find out where her gold was, she was told that the company was still then fulfilling orders from February, 2008. At one point, she asked for a refund of her payment but was told by Linda Barnes, an assistant to Bates at FAMC, that the company doesn’t make refunds. The woman finally received her gold in December, and with the help of Jones she finally received a refund of her silver in late March.
Fifty-eight-year-old Damian Orlowski, a retiree in Beach Park, Ill., ordered a large amount in gold from FAMC for an IRA rollover on September 21, 2008. “Normally it takes two to three weeks,” Orlowski said, to receive metals when he has ordered them from highly reputable suppliers, such as Lear. Orlowski didn’t receive his metals until mid-December, 2008. And because of the unreasonable delay, Orwlowski had to pay nearly $10,000 in an early-withdrawal penalty on his IRA.
“I lost nearly 17 pounds worrying,” Orlowski told me. Getting any cooperation from FAMC, he added, “is like beating a dead horse.”
For Orlowski, delays haven’t been the only disconcerting thing about FAMC’s treatment of him. In another transaction for a separate IRA, I sold him U.S. Silver Eagle coins in September, on behalf of FAMC. But Orlowski was taken by surprise when he received a call from Bates in November – unbeknownst to me asking him if FAMC could roll his large IRA account into bars of silver instead of coins.
(Bates specifically teaches not to buy bars because , when it comes time to utilize precious metals as currency, it’s going to be a whole lot more practical to pull out silver coins than 1,000-ounce bars of the metal.)
In any event, Orlowski reluctantly agreed to allow FAMC to roll his IRA into silver bars despite Bates’ specific earlier warnings against the practice. Now, despite the fact that he has received the bars, Orlowski remains greatly disturbed that he agreed to the move.
As of Monday, May 4, Orlowski has been told nothing by Bates or any FAMC representative despite his repeated attempts to have the company replace his silver bars with coins. He recently contacted the Ft. Collins representative of FAMC who handles IRA rollovers, who told him that she didn’t know when the coins would be available.
Orlowski also faxed Bates at his Memphis office several times last week, on two different fax-machine numbers. FAMC’s only replay was to acknowledge receipt of Orlowski’s April 30 fax and to remind him that he could “only communicate investments matters concerning your IRA through your trustee, Gold Star Trust Company,” via a “Written Investment Direction Form.” (In this case, a “trustee” is the entity that actually holds the metals for Orlowski’s IRA; FAMC was the selling agent.)
“There is no customer service” at FAMC, Orlowski said this evening. “They take your money and tell you to get lost.”
The Last Straw
My own biggest regret in all of this is that I didn’t act even more quickly to counteract Bates’ business practices once I began to see what they were.
For five weeks before the elections last November, Bates took a road trip in his “mobile” office. He explained to me and the crowd at the September 27 Dallas/Fort Worth Perilous Times Seminar that he was travelling and speaking to try to help John McCain become elected president instead of Barack Obama.
But I recognized that among the other things Bates wasn’t doing on his road trip was taking time to cherry-pick shipments of the gold that he owed many of his clients. Each time I called FAMC and I have e-mails to document this I was told that the staff was so busy sending out DVDs of Bates’ remarks that they didn’t even have time to provide me with sales leads from the Dallas conference; this continued for nearly a month after the conference.
One more incident involving Bates helped persuade me that he wasn’t being straight with all of his clients. One of my clients ordered $75,000 in gold in June. Bates agreed to bring it to her personally when he came to Dallas to lead his conference in September; he said he wanted to “hand deliver” it.
I was shocked when Bates didn’t produce this order upon his arrival in Dallas. Here is what he said, in a letter, when my client demanded her money back: “Your problem is that you don’t listen and you try to hear what you want to hear. Our communication to you has been clear and concise from my self and from Anne Trimble, as well as the written terms outlined on our Order Confirmation and invoice as to estimated delivery times. Your claims to the contrary are pure nonsense.”
Was this any way for a so-called Christian leader to speak to a widow? Not in my book. The date of that letter was October 22, 2008.
With my reputation on the line, I stopped selling any metals products through FAMC after the Dallas conference. Ever since then, I have been trying to recover from him the metals that he owes my clients and other FAMC clients, as well as commissions that he still owes me.