Subject: Warning - Charles Givens

Last-Revised: 20 Jan 2003
Contributed-By: Jeff Mincy (mincy at rcn.com), Chris Hynes, Chris Lott (contact me)

Charles J. Givens was a self-styled financial planner, investment educator, and investment guru who once appeared in info-mercials on late-night television to tell the world about the fortunes he had made and lost, free seminars run by his associates, and the Charles J. Givens Organization. He died in 1998, but one of his organizations, International Administrative Services Inc. (IAS), lives on.

Givens' organization offers investment education and advice through seminars and publications. He wrote several best-selling books:

  • Wealth Without Risk (1988)
  • Financial Self-Defense (1990)
  • More Wealth Without Risk (1991)

As of this writing, a trial membership in his organization is offered for about $50. The organization publishes a monthly newsletter. Telephone advice is also offered to members. Their web site address is given below.

Givens is regularly lauded by his fans for teaching people how to

navigate the world of personal finance and investments. However, his critics point out that his advice is generally simplistic and sometimes contradictory. All examples (below) are taken from Wealth Without Risk, as cited in Reference (4).
Simplistic: number 210, don't buy bonds when interest rates are rising.
Contradictory: number 206, do not put your money in vacant land;
number 245, invest your IRA or Keogh money in vacant land.

Givens offers quite a bit of helpful advice but contrary to the titles of his books, his ideas can be extremely risky. For example, some of his suggestions about insurance, especially dropping uninsured motorist coverage from one's automobile insurance, may leave people underinsured and vulnerable in case of an accident unless they are very careful about reading their policies and asking hard questions. On the other hand, some people are arguably over-insured, which is why Givens makes these recommendations. These people could certainly benefit from reading their policies carefully and asking the insurance agent some hard questions, but wholesale advice to drop coverage is risky.

He also makes aggressive interpretations of tax law, interpretations which might get one in trouble with the IRS. Not that the IRS is perfect, but not all people may be comfortable with Givens' interpretations.

The Givens organization has lost several court cases. For example, in December 1993, the Attorney General of Florida issued a complaint against Charles J. Givens alleging that certain of his practices violated Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Among the claims challenged by the Florida AG was that Givens misrepresented that his programs provided purchasers with successful and legal financial strategies that would enable them to make money. The case was resolved in 1995 when Givens agreed to pay $377,000 to cover refunds and the cost of the Florida investigation. Givens also agreed to stop making certain claims about the value of his teachings and to make full refunds to anyone who requests them within three days of receiving his materials. In 1996, the Givens organization lost a class-action case in California in which the Givens Organization was ordered to pay over $14 million to the members of the class.

Prospective followers of Givens must, absolutely must, read about successful lawsuits against Givens as well as his criminal convictions and other disclosures about him and his organization. See below for exact references.

In conclusion: his advice is simply not appropriate for everyone.

References:

  1. Smart Money, August 1993.
  2. The Wall Street Journal, ``Pitching Dreams,'' 08/05/91, Page A1.
  3. The Wall Street Journal, ``Enterprise: Proliferating Get-Rich Shows Scrutinized,'' 04/19/90, Page B1.
  4. The Wall Street Journal, ``Double or Nothing,'' 02/15/90, Page A12.
  5. Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego, Case No. 667169: Cella Gutierrez, et al. vs. Charles J. Givens Organization Inc., et al., Trial date 04/12/96.
  6. The IAS Financial Education organization (successor to the Charles J. Givens Organization).
    http://www.iasfinancial.com
  7. KYC News, short for 'Know Your Customer', publishes investigative information on financial crime in its newsletters and web site. They make available a facts and findings document from the clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Orlando, Florida about Givens and others, dated April 2003.
    http://www.kycnews.com/TedderFactFindings.pdf

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