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Independent view

Let me expand on a recent letter to Money Marketing concerning an online test application completed for an end-owment review. Apparently, no matter what responses the adviser gave, the test always suggested that he may have been missold.

The adviser said he ref-erred the case to the FSA which said it was not within its remit and The OFT said it would not be taking up these cases.

I can only agree with my fellow adviser as we have fallen victim to a “vexatious and frivolous” claim against us for an endowment case. It involves a “client” of ours who has been canvassed by a claims-chasing firm of solicitors urging him to complain. We are required to prove our innocence regardless of the merits of the case.

The firm’s covering letter defies any sort of logic and is nothing short of weasel-worded. It twists the meaning of things almost to the point of farce. For example, the firm says in its opening gambit: “In particular, the following complaints have been made.” It goes on to list six generic complaints made by the population as a whole but certainly not by our (ex) client!

These shabby tactics are utterly transparent. Woe betide the firm when it is through as we will be going straight to the Law Society and filing a complaint.

The adviser’s frustration at the various authorities’ reluctance to wade in and do something about this is widely felt by fellow advisers.

Good examples are the email scams with requests from bogus banks for “personal information updatesto enable essential IT upgrades”. There is the one where a senior banker has a client who has died leaving millions of dollars which cannot be passed on and in four years’ time will revert back to Hong Kong or wherever. As such, this “banker” would like to get your bank details in order to effect a completely legitimate transaction which just so happens will make you a multimillionaire.

What is the point in telling the FSA about dodgy solicitors when you hear stories such as these? Again, the regulator needs to get its hands dirty and mingle with the crooks and if this means getting involved with foreign counterparts, so be it. Indeed, getting tough with wayward solicitors might not be part of its remit but why did it not offer the correspondent assistance in pursuing his target?

However, maintaining public confidence is definitely its role so if millions of people are getting the same email scams, the overall impact on public confidence must be nothing other than negative.

It is demoralising to be subjected to all sorts of procedures to alleviate financial crime, only for it to be rammed down our throats everyday in the form of iffy emails.

We all understand why we are being asked to do this. We understand that the motives are worthy but the reality is in practice ironically unhealthy.

It could be argued that some procedures only increase the risk of document and identity fraud. Imagine you were a citizen of dubious merit and succumbed to the lure of bribes for documents? All the records and computers now awash with ID are ripe for the picking.

I believe the FSA could encourage the recognition of financial crime more widely. In fact, it went some way tow-ards this with its CD-Rom which quizzed our staff on financial crime. Although frustrating to complete, it was quite informative. It certainly offered views on money laundering which I had not focused on (I was probably too busy chasing existing clients to return certificates and utility bills). This sort of initiative is much more useful and goes straight to the point, unlike the box-ticking endeavours we are all forced to carry out.

We see email scams every day on our computers and no one seems to take a blind bit of notice. It is a bit like a mot-orist being prosecuted for eating an apple at the wheel when there are nearly a million uninsured drivers on our roads. The apple-eating driver is hanged, drawn and quartered for doing something which is arguably perfectly OK and the villains doing something really bad are left alone to do as they want and endanger lives. Is it the feeling of the easy target which sticks in the gullet?

Tom Kean is compliance officer director for The Analysts

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