View more on these topics

Stephen Alexander

Being described as an “ambulance-chaser” by FSA managing director John Tiner and dismissed as “not a class act” by Tory MP David Ruffley means it has been rather a good week for Class Law partner Stephan Alexander, the solicitor representing investors in the split-cap crisis.

It was Alexander&#39s appearance before the Treasury select committee – which is looking into split caps – alongside Tiner last week which prompted the attacks.

“It probably means that I said things which they found uncomfortable to hear, that I touched a raw nerve,” says Alexander, with evident relish. “Tiner&#39s remark was ill considered – is he suggesting that solicitors should not act for clients? Why not deal with the issues rather than invective?”

On the question of Guernsey&#39s communication with the FSA last year about the inherent riskiness of split-caps, Alexander is confident in the robustness of the documentation he has.

He says: “The FSA has either been incompetent or reckless – it has a lot of explaining to do.” He strongly believes the FSA cannot be a judge in its own cause – which has been a basic principle of law since the Romans.

He thinks the answer is for a division of powers, for a separate independent body to investigate regulatory failure. He is pursuing a separate case, challenging the FSA&#39s immunity from prosecution under EU law.

But it is not only the regulator and investment companies that he has in his sights – IFAs are on the radar too. According to Alexander, there are three kinds of IFA that are caught up in the split-cap case – although he quickly adds that he is far from being anti-IFA, acting for IFAs on issues such as commission and polarisation.

First are those IFAs who told clients they did not know enough about zeros to advise on them and referred people on to other brokers. These, he says, have nothing to worry about. Indeed, some of them are helping him in getting redress for their clients.

Then there are those IFAs who advised clients that zeros were low risk and say they relied on marketing literature. He describes this as negligent, saying advisers had a duty to read the underlying documentation relating to each specific product rather than rely on a generic classification of zeros as low risk.

Third are the big firms which were involved in the investment trusts themselves, as well as having IFA arms through which they sold the products.

Alexander claims that some IFAs have settled with clients rather than get into litigation. However, the big, well known investment IFAs – on which he will shortly be serving writs – are busy instructing lawyers and corresponding with Class Law.

While in his office he takes a call from his wife and gives her instructions on how to get to Greenwich…New York, where she is taking a break from their North London home. Of their three children, one is a doctor, another is about to become a doctor and one is still at school.

H e had a traditional upbringing in North London. His father “worked in timber” and Alexander went to Kilburn Grammar School. He did not go to university and instead studied law the slow way – while working.

After doing his articles, Alexander says he has always had his own firms and always in London&#39s West End, which he loves and contrasts to the “alien land” of the City of London. He says he likes noise – his windows look over one of London&#39s busiest intersections and on to the green expanse of Hyde Park.

To complement the buzz of traffic, he has bought a stereo. On entering the office the soft strain of ambient, trance music can be heard. He also has a practice golf club as another source of relaxation. Despite a clear exuberant enjoyment of life evident from his brightly coloured office, Alexander becomes coy when asked what car he owns. However, when he is told that Tiner drives a Porsche, Alexander spills the beans – he has a Ferrari, quickly adding that is it not a new one.

He set up Class Law in 1998 with Howard Epstein and they cut their teeth on Royal & Sun Alliance, acting for a client who opposed the merger of with-profits funds. They were successful and R&SA climbed down.

Class Law has since taken on a caseload of household names, including Railtrack, British Biotech, Equitable Life,Claims Direct, Sotheby&#39s and Christie&#39s.

He says the Equitable case is proceeding satisfactorily. Working together with solicitors Irwin Mitchell, an agreement has been reached with Lovells – Equitable&#39s solicitors – that should allow for an expensive court hearing to be avoided.

The ailing life company has now admitted it will pay out on misselling and the parties are close to setting up a mechanism to decide individual cases.

Alexander says he turns away at least 10 cases a week, for example, people who have lost money as a result of the implosion of Marconi. He asks: “Who can you sue – and for what?It is important not to bring silly cases.”

Alexander describes himself as a keen believer in capitalism and the system, saying: “The problem is confidence is being shattered and this is not good for investors, for IFAs and for the stockmarkets. Don&#39t try and sweep things under the carpet.”

Lives: Stanmore,London

Born: August 1952

Education and qualifications: Kilburn Grammar School, then law the slow way at the College of Law

Career to date:Variety of his own law firms in the West End – formed Class Law in partnership with Howard Epstein in 1998

Career ambition: To become a professional golfer – my big regret is that I gave up tennis when I was 14 and never found out how good I could have been

Life ambition: To live life to the full every day

Likes: Golf, travel, teaching people things

Dislikes: Stupidity and slowness, bureaucracy, pomposity

Peers say: “To try and make his business model work in the UK is very hard – I wish him luck.”

Car: Ferrari 348


&#39Safe drawdown can bring boost in market rise&#39

Current economic conditions make investing in income drawdown now safer than ever, claims the Income Drawdown Bureau.It says the Equitable Life and corporate accounting scandals have scared investors into shunning the stockmarket and instead put their money into annuities, which they see as safer but it says they should also now consider drawdown.The bureau claims […]

Dead cert

The growth in the number of lenders in the self-certification sector has come about partly as a result of a greater understanding of the risks involved but mainly as a result of the search for profit margin.Quite simply, the profits existing in the mainstream sector over the last few years have been marginal at best […]

BoE Life International – Personal Investment Portfolio

Thursday, 31 October 2002 Type: Single premium investment bond Aim: Growth by investing in offshore funds, UK unit trust and Oeics Minimum investment: Lump sum £25,000, $40,000, euro 40,000 or rands 400,000 Place of registration: Isle of Man Investment split: Choice of offshore funds, UK unit trust and Oeics Isa link: No Charges: Initial &#45 […]

Credit crunch

What impact will the new European directive on consumer credit have on remortgaging, equity release, offset and flexible mortgages it if comes into legislation as the CML fears?Charlesworth: Between the European directive and CP146, the equity-release remortgage market could be significantly compromised, with the biggest impact coming from the proposals in CP146. The concern is […]

US: mid-year review and outlook

By Felix Wintle, Manager of the Neptune US Opportunities Fund H1 2014 Economic data: after last year’s strength, economic data has disappointed. Indeed, the economy contracted 2.9 per cent in the first three months of the year — the US economy’s worst performance for five years. However, rather than a symptom of underlying economic weakness or […]


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up


    Leave a comment


    Why register with Money Marketing ?

    Providing trusted insight for professional advisers.  Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and advice.

    News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
    Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

    Money Marketing Events
    Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

    Research and insight
    Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

    Have your say
    Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

    Register now

    Having problems?

    Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

    Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm