As your legal, asset, and business quarterback, at EsqWealth we are committed to your financial success through trustworthy and unbiased legal, life, and financial advice. In his own words, Frank J. Johnson, EsqWealth’s Founder and CEO, describes the firm’s unique experience and five reasons why our financial planning approach is different from most financial advisors. His philosophy is imbued in the culture of EsqWealth and all of its professionals.
First, our goal is to have fewer clients so that we can properly allocate our available resources to deliver a more personalized approach and the best service to our clients. Barron’s reported in 2016 on the top Financial Advisors: “This year’s Top 1,200 serve 521 households on average, compared with 496 for 2015’s crop.” Unlike the top 1,200 Financial Advisors, our goal is to have around 25 high-net-worth client households with a minimum account size of $1,000,000 and a minimum net worth of $5,000,000. This approach allows us to take more time to get to know you, your values, and your goals and to continuously stay on top of your financial plan. Our commitment to you is simple: We are going to care more about you, and be more personally devoted to your financial success, than anyone in the world who doesn’t share your last name.
Fiduciary Duty to All Clients
Second, in conjunction with our affiliated law firm, many on our team are lawyers. Unlike many professionals in the financial industry, we begin our analysis with a fundamental understanding and belief that we have a fiduciary duty to our clients which is required by law and every court in this country. We embrace this same legal fiduciary duty when working for our finance clients. Our legal fiduciary duty starts with but goes beyond acting in the best interest of our clients at all times. It is sometimes described as “the four c’s” which are as follows:
- Conflict avoidance: As lawyers, we must avoid situations that create a conflict of interest with our clients.
- Competence: We must approach our work with all the thoroughness and preparation necessary to protect our clients’ interest.
- Communication: We must provide our clients with enough information so that they can make informed decisions, which requires regular, informative communication.
- Confidentiality: Clients trust us with confidential information and we have a duty to not disclose that information to anyone.
Third, a little more on conflicts avoidance because it is so important when it comes to financial advisory work. Many financial advisors have conflicts of interest with their clients and do not even believe they owe their clients a fiduciary duty. Technically, broker dealers sit on the other side of the table from their clients because they are getting paid to sell a security to clients and do not necessarily approach their decisions with a mind of having a fiduciary duty to their clients. As an attorney and an investment advisor, I’m on same side of the transaction with my client. That’s why I decided not to pursue a broker dealer license but to get licensed as an investment advisor; it fits perfectly with my professional career, my belief system, and my fiduciary duties to my clients as a lawyer.
Securities Fraud Work
Fourth, I’ve been a lawyer for nearly 30 years, the last 19 of which my trial practice focused on matters involving securities fraud, exposing some of the biggest scams on Wall Street. As such, I’ve been immersed in the securities market acting essentially as an investigator researching how frauds were committed. My practice also involved analyzing the fairness and accuracy of valuation metrics and disclosures to shareholders when companies agreed to be acquired at prices that were arguably unfair to shareholders, particularly where officers and directors were receiving benefits not shared with or not disclosed to shareholders. The success of my law firm turned on how effective and efficient I was in understanding the intricacies of the fraud and how creative I was in formulating corporate governance reforms at some of the largest publicly traded companies in the world. As a result of my track record, I have been retained by publicly traded companies, the founders of those companies, and United States Trustees in bankruptcy when companies filed for bankruptcy, to pursue claims against wayward directors for insider trading, fraud, and breaching their fiduciary duties to the company. Thus, over the past two decades, I have developed a keen aptitude in understanding public company financial statements, various SEC filings, best practices in corporate governance, and how the securities industry operates.
Fifth, we have real-life experience and have implemented planning tools that help us understand the demands on our high-net-worth clients and the strategies that help them grow and protect their assets. You can read about our decades of experience in our bios, but we also have created our own trusts and entities designed to grow and protect our own personal assets. For example, as of this writing, my wife and I have four limited liability companies, three S corporations, three trusts, and one limited partnership, all created to operate other businesses or own assets. These entities were also designed to maximize tax mitigation and preserve our assets for our retirement and multigenerational financial planning. In addition, before starting EsqWealth, I worked with well over a dozen different advisors who managed about 10% of my assets over the past 25 years. These relationships helped my law practice as their shareholder clients would occasionally become clients of my law firm when they suspected corporate misconduct related to their investments. I enjoyed the regular dialogue with these advisors and shareholders, I intently listened to their perspectives on where the market was going and why, and I learned from their different strategies and approaches to investing. This experience kept me on top of my game in evaluating my own investments in the securities markets, helped me succeed in my law firm, and fueled my desire to start EsqWealth.