Stansberry & Associates Investment Research, LLC (Stansberry) of Baltimore, Maryland, has agreed to pay a $55,000 civil monetary penalty to the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSA Inspector General Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr. announced. Stansberry, a subsidiary of Agora, Inc., has also voluntarily ceased promotion of its “Get Social Security No Matter What Your Age” publication, removed all reference to “insiders” at SSA on its company website, and taken steps to disable all active links to these materials.
According to its website (www.stansberryresearch.com), Stansberry “is an independent investment research firm, with subscribers in more than 100 different countries.” Stansberry claims to have approximately 315,000 paid, active, unique subscribers, and another 500,000 readers who subscribe to various free e-letters and other Stansberry publications.
The SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) contacted Stansberry after learning that Stansberry was promoting its “Get Social Security No Matter What Your Age” publication by claiming to have “insiders” at SSA as a source of some of its information. The SSA OIG informed Stansberry that its characterization of its SSA contacts as “insiders” violated Section 1140 of the Social Security Act (the Act). While not admitting that it violated Section 1140 of the Act, Stansberry agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty to settle the claim.
Section 1140 prohibits the use of SSA words and symbols in advertisements or solicitations in a manner that conveys the false impression that SSA approved, endorsed, or authorized the subject of the advertisements or solicitations; or that the subject has some official connection with SSA. In this case, the SSA OIG believed that the characterization of Stansberry’s SSA contacts as “insiders” falsely implied that the information was not available to the public. The claimed “insider” information was, in fact, available to anyone upon request.
In response to a recent increase in Section 1140 allegations, SSA OIG has recently launched an aggressive effort to pursue more cases and deter violations of Section 1140 through enforcement and educational outreach.
For more information, please contact Jonathan Lasher, OIG’s Assistant Inspector General for External Relations, at 410-965-2671.