An elderly couple is suing JPMorgan for $20 million over claims they were misled on risky investments (JPM)

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An elderly couple is suing JPMorgan and investment manager Chickasaw Capital Management over claims their advisors at the companies pressured them into risky investments. 

Peter and Yoon Doelger are seeking $20 million in losses and other damages, including fees the couple paid to their advisors, Yoon’s attorney James Serritella told Insider on Wednesday. The Doelgers filed their lawsuit on June 23 in a Massachusetts court.

The Doelgers say JPMorgan and Chickasaw, which specializes in master limited partnership investments (MLPs), pushed them to make complex investments without adequately explaining the risks involved.

The Doelgers claim their retirement investments were all but wiped out when MLPs they were invested in declined in value. The losses were particularly severe during the market volatility at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, according to the complaint.

The Doelgers allege that JPMorgan and Chickasaw advised them to stay invested in energy-focused MLP investments while simultaneously collecting fees and interest from loans they made to the Doelgers to help finance those investments.

JPMorgan also failed to disclose that it could make additional profit if the investments were to fail — an “inherent” conflict of interest, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs, who are married and retired, are particularly vulnerable clients, according to the complaint. They are clients of the firm’s private bank, which caters to individuals worth at least $10 million.

Peter, 84, has suffered from cognitive decline and has increasingly relied on advisors to make financial decisions. Yoon, 74, speaks English as a second language and has struggled to fully understand some conversations, like ones involving complex financial matters. JPMorgan was aware of these conditions, according to the complaint.

The complaint said Peter, who made his wealth earlier in life through an energy firm he eventually sold, would often remain quiet or speak “minimally or in a confused manner” while meeting with their JPMorgan advisor, James Baker.

“We believe these allegations are without merit and look forward to presenting our case in court,” JPMorgan spokesperson Robert Carosella said in a statement.

A representative for Chickasaw did not return a request for comment. 

In a disclosure on Baker’s FINRA BrokerCheck record, JPMorgan said it disputes claims by an unnamed client whose complaint matches the Doelgers’. 

“In March of 2020 during unprecedented market volatility as a result of the global COVID crisis, the client faced imminent margin calls and liquidated the concentrated portfolio at a loss,” the statement said. “The client is now attempting to shift responsibility of these losses on to JPMC for failing to diversify despite the explicit and documented recommendations to the contrary.”

Serritella, the Doelgers’ lawyer, said the plaintiffs are calling on the US Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate JPMorgan and Chickasaw. Serritella declined to comment on whether he has already been in contact with the SEC, saying he is still “in early stages” of taking action.

JPMorgan’s private bank is a separate unit from its wealth management business, which typically caters to affluent, but not super-rich, clients. The firm has sought to ramp up its wealth management services in the last year, with plans to hire thousands of new advisors in its private-banking and wealth management units in the coming years. 

“The reason we decided to go public was because there are other elderly people out there. They might have the same situation, like us,” said Yoon. “So I want them to know, I want them to be aware it could happen to anybody.”

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