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MetLife fined $20M for variable annuities switches

WASHINGTON – MetLife has been fined $20 million by Wall Street’s policing body for misleading customers in switching them from variable annuities contracts into more expensive ones.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said Tuesday the decision was its largest fine related to variable annuities, popular yet complex investments that have grabbed the attention of regulators in recent years. FINRA has taken hundreds of disciplinary actions against brokers and investment firms for abuses in sales of variable annuities.

FINRA also ordered MetLife Securities Inc. to return $5 million to customers “for making negligent material misrepresentations and omissions” on applications for switching into new variable annuities contracts. Tens of thousands of customers were affected, the regulators said.

New York-based MetLife neither admitted nor denied the allegations.