WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday wiped away a $300,000 fine and other sanctions against a financial adviser known for his “Buckets of Money” retirement strategy. The court said the administrative law judge who ruled against Raymond Lucia of California was not properly appointed to his job by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
But the justices declined to address a larger issue raised by the Trump administration, which wanted the court to rule that the president has broad authority to fire certain officials.
The 6-3 decision could affect 150 administrative law judges in 25 federal agencies, Mark Perry, Lucia’s lawyer, told the Supreme Court when the case was argued in April.
The SEC already has changed the way it appoints its judges by requiring a vote by commissioners, instead of relying on staff members.
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Justice Elena Kagan said in her opinion for the court that Lucia must have a new hearing before a different judge or the commission itself.
The SEC charged Lucia in 2012 with violating federal law and SEC rules, saying he used misleading slides in a free presentation to potential clients. One of the SEC’s five administrative law judges conducted a days-long hearing and ultimately found against Lucia, fining him and his company $300,000 and barring him from working as an investment adviser.
Lucia had promoted a retirement strategy he called “Buckets of Money,” as a radio show host, author and seminar leader. His strategy was that in retirement investors should first sell safer investments, giving riskier investments time to grow.
The Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration to argue that the judges are not mere employees, but officers of the United States with significant decision-making authority.
The case is 17-130, Lucia v. SEC.