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Hounded by an unfair regime

As my firm has been mentioned in an article in Money Marketing, I feel that it is reasonable for me to comment.

First, I would point out that it is correct that Tony Weil transferred his client base and files to this firm on ceasing to be authorised. We have continued to service his clients since that time and find that almost universally he is held in the highest esteem by them.

Sadly,we are in no position to help him directly in dealing with complaints (however justified or spurious they may be) as we too sent all our files to Sesame (including the former files of Antony Weil Insurance Consultants) when we terminated our membership.

We did so in good faith and on the assumption that the files would be available to us in future and, on this basis, we did not take copies, etc.

I have little doubt, judging by the manner in which Sesame have dealt with endowment complaints against this firm and others, that there is a problem with finding many of the historic files they hold from former members.

Turning now to the thrust of your article. It is difficult for any reader to comprehend the impact of what is happening to these individuals.

While Tony Weil and his wife Fran are grateful for any publicity which highlights their plight, and the article is a reasonable summary of the situation from Money Marketing, as much as might reasonably be expected, it hardly touches the sides in terms of the full story, the heartbreak and the stress which Tony and Fran have endured for several years and are still enduring.

Let me say (for Nic Cicutti’s benefit) that Tony Weil is not a saint. He is not perfect, any more than any one of us is perfect (including Nic Cicutti). He is, however, an honest and genuine individual who has spent his career in financial services and has the ethos of client service and advice which encouraged clients to return and to recommend him to their children.

His problems began when Investment Options terminated his contract in a spiteful, political two-fingered gesture to the FSA fine for failing to conduct the pension review correctly.

No fault of Tony Weil. The reason for the termination was that he had been in the industry for many years and therefore had a significant number of “pre-network” pension review cases.

Investment Options terminated his contract “for commercial reasons” – no fault of Tony Weil. Just that they did not want to do the work.

Thereafter, he was not authorised by anyone and although he tried to get information, advice, support, etc, from the FSA, he was constantly rebuffed as he was not authorised and told that any dispute was a contractual matter between him and Investment Options. He was never placed in a position whereby he could conduct the pension review.

You will appreciate that he had assumed the network would conduct the review and would tell him what was required. He never had any instructions, guidance, rules, etc, from the FSA – it all went to the network. Once his contract was terminated, the network was off the hook and he was placed on it. The trouble was that he had not had the historic FSA guidance, etc, and could not get it.

The case which resulted in a charge on his home (which now prevents him from using equity release to pay the claim) was found against him by the FOS on the grounds that the pension review had not been carried out, not, as I understand it, on the grounds of whether the advice was sound or not.

I make no case on whether or not the advice was sound. The fact is they have had no opportunity to defend the position nor to seek any form of hearing and have no right of appeal and no access to their own files to construct a defence. Sesame has admitted that they are unable to find the file.

They have been to court twice to argue their case. Lawyers have decided that their best approach is to claim no FOS jurisdiction (perfectly reasonable in the light of the fact that the FOS themselves had stated that the firm was not within their jurisdiction). This, however, has been overturned and now they are not in a position to contest the case on other grounds.

In the first court case, the judge said that there was not any suggestion that Awic had done anything wrong. He also commented that he had no idea where natural justice came into this but that he was constrained by statute.

Now that the FOS have had jurisdiction decided in their favour by the courts, they have suddenly produced a list of endowment complaints for which neither the Weils, ourselves, nor Sesame have ever received any complaint. Is it not the case that the FOS should not review a complaint unless it has been put to the original advisers and the complaint refuted?

Unlike the Pickerings (who are still trading and presumably earning a living from the industry), this couple are retired. They have no access to the FSA guidance, FOS rules, market information or any other form of support or assistance. Tony Weil is a shadow of his former self – a defeated and embittered man who has spent his life working for his clients and who is being hounded to potential bankruptcy in his retirement by an unjust and unfair regime.

Grosvenor Chaundy

Managing director

The Grosvenor Consultancy

Thatcham, Berkshire

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