The agency, which manages pension plans for most of Colorado’s public employees, has sued a Las Vegas-based company of the same name, alleging it was involved in “a fraudulent marketing campaign.”
The Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, commonly known as PERA, sued PERA LLC in a Denver state court on September 3, accusing it of violating the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
“This case is about the exact situation of a party misleading PERA members by using a similar name and suggesting that it is an affiliate, affiliate where members share their personal financial information and seek information and convince them to move their accounts from PERA if it may not be in the member’s best interests, ”the lawsuit stated.
The Vegas PERA was acquired last month from Henderson, Nevada, Grow Capital Inc.
“We are investigating the claims and cannot comment on any pending legal matters,” said a Grow Capital spokeswoman.
Colorado PERA, which refused to comment, has more than 620,000 members and beneficiaries, according to the lawsuit. Approximately 411 public employers in the state are affiliated with PERA to provide retirement and other benefits to their employees.
PERA LLC is now active as Public Employee Retirement Assistance. The company describes itself on its website as a “third-party marketing organization that facilitates meetings between state-licensed agents and public employees with individual retirement questions.”
According to the lawsuit, the Vegas company has emailed thousands of Colorado school district employees, including Jefferson County School District, Boulder Valley School District, Falcon School District, and Cheyenne Mountain School District. The emails imply that the company is affiliated with the state and is offering consultations to discuss retirement issues.
Colorado PERA accuses the Vegas company of having a similar logo and relying on its similar name to generate leads.
“The business model relies on confusion and deception, copying PERA’s name, imitating the PERA logo, relying on PERA’s reputation, and falsely claiming that the sales representatives were approved by PERA or the PERA employer if so is not the case, “says the lawsuit.
Colorado PERA said it sent a letter of its concern to Chris Murphy, the company’s founder in Vegas, in May but received no response. Murphy’s LinkedIn page states that the company was founded in 2015.
Colorado PERA is asking the court to prohibit the Vegas company from soliciting its members and the profits made by the Vegas company’s actions as well as other damages.
Attorneys Caleb Durling and Maureen Carroll of Fox Rothschild’s Denver office represented Colorado PERA in the litigation.