The Ministry of Justice is failing IFAs over claims chasers

How effective is the Ministry of Justice? We live in an age where a whole industry of complaint-handlers – or instigators as they are known at Highclere – seek to extract every last penny out of whichever unfortunate they select as a victim. In this vile endeavour, truth and veracity are the first victims.

Some years back, an instigator levelled a series of fictitious allegations on behalf of a client. Investigations quickly showed that the client was oblivious to these defamations and had simply signed a piece of paper giving authority to investigate the sale. The client’s complaint was retracted and my subsequent application to the fraud squad resulted in little other than a crime number.

I recently received another complaint letter from the same company. Like the previous effort, it came via the insur-ance company. The letter alleged that the salesperson had failed to establish attitude to risk and argued that prior to the arrangement of a mortgage endowment, the client had no investment experience other than bank and building society accounts. It further contended that other repayment methods had not been fully discussed and the policy terms were inconsistent with the mortgage terms.

I found the letter shocking as this was a client of 25 years standing who, only months previously, I had assisted in switching from endowment to repayment.

Perhaps he had been energised by some newspaper article, automated phone call or door-knocker, so, with a degree of trepidation, I approached him and asked why he was complaining.

He assured me he had not levelled any complaint and was very happy with my advice. I read out the allegations and he was astounded as he had not made a single one. He had merely signed a piece of paper enabling the instigators to approach the insurer – can you see a trend here? He had been told the insurer would foot the bill for any errors and had been specifically assured I would not be approached. Had he known the process, he would never have signed the authority. I reminded him that prior to his endowments, he had operated a unit-linked pension mortgage and we had discussed the transition to and from endowments in great detail, all of which he accepted. As a consequence, he has now instructed the instigators to withdraw the allegations.

This begs a number of questions, the most important being – how is a firm regulated by the MoJ able to engage in duplicity and deceit in order that “redress” can be squeezed from innocent firms? I wiould consider this to be fraud and, from my experience, it seems to be fraud on an enormous scale.

The MoJ requires licensed firms to conduct business “with honesty, integrity and responsibility”.

Isn’t concocting complaint letters a breach of all three precepts? My letter to the MoJ will explain as much.

How many advisers and insurers have been targeted by these and other parasitic instigators? How many rejected claims ended up with the Financial Ombudsman Service, where at best they incurred a case fee and at worst involved a compensation payment due to the infamous FOS natural justice?

Alan Lakey is partner at Highclere Financial Services