Simoney Kyriakou  

Fos is still prone to act as judge, jury and executioner

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

Financial Times staff are moving from their iconic 'black box' building on the Thames next year. 

As a result, we are busy clearing up old copies of Financial Adviser, which for me date back to, well, let's not say when.

Suffice it to say I've been enjoying reading old stories about the Financial Ombudsman Service we have covered over the years - if 'enjoying' is the right word.

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Taking a snapshot of front-page Fos stories across the years, there's a common thread: one David of an adviser fighting against a Goliath decision that seems to have been taken with perfect hindsight and little understanding of the actual case history.

One IFA, in 2011, was asked to provide documents for a case involving a woman who wasn't a client but had only come for one initial meeting, and decided to act on what she thought might have been his advice. 

Another financial adviser was left picking up the pieces after Fos ruled against him for an investment decision made in 2006, in a global tracker fund, which by 2009 had fallen prey to the Credit Crisis and the vagaries of the stock market.

The adjudicator in that event had claimed he should have been promoting a more 'realistic' worst-case scenario for market falls. As if an adviser could have predicted the wholesale, systemic market failure that ensued in 2007 to 2008.

My favourite horror story is slightly more recent - and therefore it has also been stored online. (The other print-only articles had not had this luxury). This is the case of a mortgage broker whose business collapsed because he was ordered to remunerate a client for whom he had carried out a remortgage on her insistence. 

Unbeknown to him, she had later gone with an unauthorised adviser to invest in - you've guessed it - Bulgarian buy-to-let and blown the lot.

But Fos neither rebuffed her for her greed or passed the unauthorised adviser's details to the cops, but instead brought its full judgement down on the head of the mortgage broker for allowing her access to the money in the first place. You can read the baffling story here - it still sends shivers down my spine.

While in recent years I will say Fos seems to be moving towards a more balanced and intelligent process of adjudication, there are far too many times when it still seems to be acting as judge, jury and executioner and making some very odd decisions.

Take for example two recent cases - one involving 19-year old advice given in-branch at Lloyds, and another involving advice given 23 years ago, in the days before widespread digitised audit trails.

I can barely remember what happened 23 days ago; how can someone be expected to remember and recite with clarity conversations that were held back in 1995?