As Christina Shantz recalls it, "the line of customers would be out the door" when she arrived at the office early in the morning of the third day of each month.
Little surprise. The branch of NationsBank where she worked was directly across the street from the Wynmoor Retirement Community in Coconut Creek, Fla. It was a monthly ritual to queue up for the communal depositing of Social Security checks the morning after they arrived in the mail.
"They're so dear and frail," she said of her former clients. "They need some nurturing and someone to explain the basics to them in order to step up to investing."
By Ms. Shantz' account, though, if it's nurturing they needed, the Coconut Creek customers were lining up outside the wrong door.
In an arbitration complaint filed with the National Association of Securities Dealers in October, Ms. Shantz said NationsSecurities, the investment subsidiary of NationsBank, misguided its customers about how they should invest and thwarted brokers' efforts to do the best thing for a largely elderly clientele.
The allegations in the complaint, if true, illustrate the sorts of problems regulators have long fretted could occur if uninsured securities products are sold at banks, where many consumers do business with an unrealistic feeling of security.
Ms. Shantz says in her complaint that she was forced to quit in March 1995 "for failing to generate mutual fund commissions." She was ordered in a January 1995 performance review to push unit investment trusts and Ginnie Mae funds, the complaint says.
By May 1996, Texas had threatened to revoke NationsSecurities' license - in part because of the way it marketed some of the same products Ms. Shantz considered inappropriate. Texas and NationsSecurities settled in August.
Ellison Clary, a spokesman for Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank, characterized Ms. Shantz' complaint as a rehash of similar complaints filed by disgruntled ex-employees.
"We will vigorously defend ourselves" against all the former employees, he said. "We don't believe the allegations are correct." Mr. Clary added that NationsBank and NationsSecurities have always adhered to the laws that separate the activities of banks from their securities operations.
Still, in its settlement with Texas, NationsSecurities agreed to examine its advertising and marketing materials "to prevent the distribution of inappropriate literature" and said it would ask customers to sign a statement that they understood they were dealing with a broker, not a bank.
In a separate settlement with South Carolina in April 1995, NationsSecurities agreed to set up an "investor education" project after that state threatened to revoke NationsSecurities' license.
In her complaint, Ms. Shantz described a relationship between the bank and its securities arm that flirted with violating the evolving rules governing banks' securities sales.
Bank employees who did not have securities licenses "were trained to promote securities sales," the complaint said. Brokers were able to get information about bank customers, including maturity dates of certificates of deposit, addresses, telephone numbers, and incomes of customers, according to the complaint.
Although she was based in Coconut Creek, Ms. Shantz' business cards said she worked in Fort Lauderdale. According to the complaint, the Fort Lauderdale branch was properly registered with securities regulators, but the Coconut Creek branch was not.
A bank subsidiary that sells securities is obliged to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Association of Securities Dealers, according to officials at each of those agencies. The complaint said Coconut Creek was not registered.
John Pinto, director of enforcement at NASD Regulation Inc., added that a "longstanding" rule prohibits NASD members from paying referral fees as an "ongoing part of the business." Ms. Shantz said payments for referrals were standard in her office.