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— But then Gair stuffed the account with mutual funds that were heavy in volatile tech and telecommunications stock, according to the complaint. Over the next two years, Gair (who is no longer with the firm) bought and sold similar speculative mutual funds -- mostly paying fat commissions -- as losses mounted. Gair and First Wall Street amassed $61,000 in fees and commissions in a little over two years, according to the complaint. Meanwhile, the account had plummeted from a value of $878,000 to $357,000. Biggs's mother has died, but her daughter suffers insomnia, depression, nausea, and migraine headaches as a result of the stress, according to court records.

"The case is completely meritless," says attorney Brandon S. Reif, representing the defendants.

"There is a lot more stalling" in cases involving the elderly, says attorney Mark Brewer. "We ask for documents, and they never come." In court cases, there is a penalty for not producing documents -- but not in arbitrations, he says. That's one reason why brokerages try to steer cases to arbitration, while customers' lawyers try to get them into court.

Attorney Vincent Slavens has a churning and suitability case on behalf of several elderly persons who would have had to make 20 percent on their investment just to cover commissions raked in by the brokerage house. In the arbitration, the brokerage's strategy was to stall. "First their counsel was in-house," says Slavens. "Then a second one in-house. Then they went out-house."

Finally, the brokerage fulfilled an objective: One of the claimants died.

That's one reason why many arbitrations and court cases on behalf of fleeced older people charge the brokerage with elder abuse.

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