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Stark realities

Ordinarily he was insane but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid. This wise observation from Heinriche Heine surfaced as I read Nic Cicutti’s recent diatribe against advisers Heather Moor & Edgecomb.

I was appalled and dismayed to read his condemnations. Even the recent letters’ column thrashing at the hands of Adam Samuel – for inaccuracies within a previous column – failed to curb Cicutti.

It is not my place to stand as advocate for HME and nor do I intend commenting on the particulars of either of the cases that Cicutti homed in on since I have insufficient knowledge to enable a worthwhile opinion. Suffice to say that, like my own company, and indeed many others, HME obtains its business from returning satisfied clients and their subse- quent referrals.

HME’s legal actions have benefited from the representation of Anthony Speaight, QC, a renowned expert on financial services law.

In short, he is someone, who would never put his name to proceedings that offered little chance of success or to any that were based on doubtful probity.

By legally challenging the unfair and partisan actions of the Financial Ombudsman Service, HME has undertaken a task that many advisers have aspired to but have generally been constrained by a lack of financial resources, a lack of moral fibre or a fear of regal- atomy reprisals.

Cicutti further distances himself from the stark reality of the financial services world and places himself inside that box labelled “unprofessional nuttier”.

This term, like “usual suspects”, is a tag that he habitually attaches to myself, Even Owen and any supporters of the IF Defence Union, an organisation fighting for clarity and fairness in a world which is both murky and unjust.

It seems that Cicutti’s argument is that no FOS decision should be legally challenged as it brings about delay, thereby causing detriment to the complainant.

This naturally presupposes that all claimants have genuine grievances and that all FOS adjudications and decisions are sound. Even the staunchest consumer advocate knows this to be gibberish and quite recently a senior ombudsman admitted as much to me.

The mechanism for challenging FOS decisions has to be through the court system because the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 purposely failed to allow for an independent appeal process that might otherwise overturn the less rational FOS decisions and processes.

This means that costly judicial reviews are the main route for adviser satisfaction and these can easily cost upwards of £30,000.

This birthmark on the fundament of dispute resolution could be removed very easily by amending existing legislation and bringing FOS processes in line with those of the legal system.

Politically, this is seen as a no-win situation and is unlikely to be enacted so, until the system chan- ges, firms such as HME and my own will continue to fight for what is right, not what is politically expedient. No matter how frequently Cicutti vents his spleen, nothing will change that.

Cicutti has been around long enough to understand all this. Having worked as a nurse, dishwasher and school cleaner, he should have an understanding of the realities of life.

Having also been a union branch secretary, he will also know that theory and practice rarely engage each other.

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