RegulationDec 16 2015

IFAs urged to pledge £1,000 to fight Fos’ Bulgarian bungle

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IFAs urged to pledge £1,000 to fight Fos’ Bulgarian bungle

IFAs have risen to support a beleaguered mortgage adviser with a fighting fund as he faces ruin over a Financial Ombudsman Service demand that he repay £90,000 to a client for a failed investment.

They have levelled fury at Fos for what they see as its unfair decision to force Graham Lockstone, from Somerset-based EMS (Express Mortgage Solutions) to return money to the client which she lost after he arranged a remortgage for her.

The woman, an accountant, used the money to invest in Bulgarian buy-to-let, which she did through another firm. She claimed the adviser had inflated her income to allow her to raise the funds; therefore he was responsible for her losing the money on her investment.

Neil Liversidge, managing director of West Yorkshire-based West Riding Personal Financial Solutions, said he would be willing to contribute £1,000 to a fund for taking the case to a judicial review - which costs about £100,000 - and urged 99 other IFAs do the same.

He said: “Fos is basically able to decide what its own jurisdiction is. If a mortgage adviser is being held responsible for investment advice he has not given, and for business decisions made by a qualified accountant, the entire financial services industry is unsustainable because no one is responsible for their decisions.

“This woman is an accountant. If she is really not to blame for her own decision in this matter she should be debarred as an accountant. What sort of advice is she giving her clients? She is falling back on the mortgage adviser.”

Mr Lockstone fast-tracked his client with Halifax, but the Bulgarian investment failed and in 2014 she made a complaint that if Mr Lockstone had not done her remortgage, she would not have lost her money.

He is now seeing a business debt management company, and said that since the decision, he has spoken with solicitors, but “no one wants to take on the ombudsman”.

“I don’t hold out much hope. If there is no other option, I’ll have to shut down the business. The trouble is that this might set the precedent for other cases.”

Mr Lockstone added: “The support on Financial Adviser and through the IFA Cherry online forum has been staggering, so for that I am grateful.”

Mr Liversidge has also launched an online government petition, so far attracting more than 430 signatures, which claims that Fos “has a track record of issuing judgments that are contradictory, illogical and made with hindsight”, adding “we call for it to be subject to common law and for all its decisions to be approved by a suitably qualified judge”.

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