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Couple could lose their house after FOS switch

A retired IFA couple say they could lose their house to pay compensation to former clients and cannot defend themselves against the Financial Ombudsman Service as their files have been lost.

Tony Weil set up Antony Weil Insurance Consultants in 1979 and became directly authorised by Fimbra in 1986.

Tony and his wife Fran decided in 1995 that, due to increasing regulatory requirements, AWIC needed ext- ernal compliance support and so became an appointed representative of Investment Options, which later became Sesame.

In August 1998, Investment Options terminated AWIC’s membership, along with many others, after the network was fined by the PIA for failings relating to the pension review.

The Weils say, following their dismissal by the network, they contacted the PIA directly about continuing the pension review for their clients but, since the firm was not dir- ectly authorised, they were given no assistance.

The Weils have not traded since and handed all their files for business conducted during that period over to Investment Options.

AWIC files relating to business written before they joined Investment Options were handed over to The Grosvenor Consultancy, part of the Countrywide network, which later also became Sesame.

Six years later in 2004, the FOS upheld a complaint from a former client of AWIC over the misselling of a pension in 1990. The award of £24,000 was enforced by way of a charge on the Weils’ home.

The advisers say they had no way of defending the claim as Sesame could not locate the relevant file and the adviser who sold the pension on behalf of the firm had died.

They also argue that any complaints lodged should not have come under FOS jurisdiction because they were not authorised do conduct business by Fimbra after April 1, 1996.

The ombudsman itself stated in a letter to a potential complainant, dated February 2006, that “the firm is not within our jurisdiction”.

It said: “The ombudsman’s powers to investigate complaints against firms which were formerly authorised by Fimbra only allow him to deal with such complaints if the firm was authorised by Fimbra after 1 April 1996.

“Antony Weil Insurance Consultants were indeed, formerly, regulated and authorised to carry out investment business by Fimbra. However, this authorisation ceased and the company did not become authorised by any other relevant regulator after that date.”

But the FOS appeared to change its mind and won a county court case in June 2007 and a subsequent appeal in May this year concerning whether the ombudsman had jurisdiction to handle complaints about the firm. A FOS spokesman would not comment on the discre- pancy between the letter and its actions in court.

The couple have now been notified by the FOS that there are a further nine complaints pending, which they believe could leave them liable for up to £150,000 if all are upheld.

Of the nine cases, the Weils had only been approached by two of their former clients before the complaints were referred to the ombudsman and were unaware that the other seven cases existed. Sesame says it has not been notified of any complaints relating to AWIC that are currently pending at the FOS.

The Weils wrote to Sesame on July 8, requesting a list of client files that the network has retained but have yet to receive a reply.

Fran Weil says: “We have no way of fighting complaints that arise as we do not have any client files and Sesame has failed to provide information about the files they do have. The situation is desperate.”

On the upheld complaint, a Sesame spokesman says: “This does not relate to business written while part of the network. However we do hold files for Antony Weil and we will be happy to investigate this matter further.”



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