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Defence mechanism

I am a moderator on a couple of internet forums. The job generally involves making sure that people behave when responding to each other’s comments and observe the rules of that internet community.

One of the noticeable things at this time of year is that many contributors’ posts become more splen-etic, occasionally descending into downright madness. My theory is it is all down to the hot sun beating down on people’s necks that plays havoc with their mental health.

Last week, I found myself wondering whether Alan Lakey, an IFA and fellow contributor to Money Marketing, had not been similarly affected by the recent heatwave, which provoked him into writing the column he did.

Alan, in case you had not noticed, is the intellectual “enforcer” on behalf of the IFA Defence Union. The difficulty for him is that there are moments when the task he is called upon to perform on behalf of his mates defeats even his fertile imagination.

So it proved last week in his attempted demolition of my comments concerning Heather Moor & Edgecomb and various Court of Appeal rulings against this firm in recent months.

Alan claims that, not knowing anything of the cases concerned, he has little to say on that specific subject.

In which case, perhaps he should have a look at the extremely long judgments handed down by the Court of Appeal, which also lay out the facts of the case. They are available online and I commend them to him.

But not knowing or wishing to know about the case itself does not prevent him from commenting on the issue. So let’s get a few points straight.

Alan says I received a “thrashing” from Adam Samuel. In fact, Adam Samuel corrected me for using the word “alleged” in reference to the £2,500 court costs paid by the Financial Ombudsman Service for a delayed hearing.

I did so as a journalistic device because I did not have that particular court decision in front of me when writing the column in question.

Adam Samuel also made it clear, not that I would ever accused him otherwise, that he did not support HME in its legal battle. If that counts as a spanking, my real name is Max Mosley.

Alan suggests that “like my own company, and indeed many others, HME obtains its business from returning satisfied clients and their subsequent referrals”.

The inference here is that if it were a duff firm, HME would not have many clients.

That is a totally illogical statement. Liverpool Victoria, or LV= as the company is now bizarrely called, has many satisfied clients, including me.

Yet that did not stop LV= from being fined £840,000 for breaching FSA regulations over PPI sales on thousands of policies between 2005 and 2007.

What really annoys me about Alan is his suggestion that I believe the Financial Ombudsman Service should not be challenged with respect to its decisions, legally or otherwise.

On the contrary, I have no special admiration for the FOS, some of whose decisions I do not agree with on pro-consumer grounds. I do not doubt for a minute that IFAs have also been wronged by the FOS.

If an IFA has a genuine grievance and feels compelled to go to court to get justice, that is fair enough in my book.

Where Alan and I part company is over two key issues. The first is whether an IFA should use a protracted appeal process to avoid having to pay compensation to a client, even where they were in the wrong.

In my opinion, having read the lengthy judgments in the Court of Appeal rulings, especially the one in relation to the airline pilot encouraged to transfer his occupational pension into an s32 scheme, this was the case here.

My second key disagreement with Alan flows from this same point. HME was not and never should have been regarded as anyone’s heroes on the issue before the court.

That they were lionised by the IFA Defence Union tells me that either not enough checks took place into the merits of the case itself or the IFADU is so blinded by its increa- singly hysterical obsession with the FOS that any stick is seen as good enough to beat the FOS with.

If I were Alan, I would stick my head under a cold shower for a few minutes.

Nic Cicutti can be contacted at nic@inspiredmoney.co.uk

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