Complaints Commissioner  

Client poaching complaint lands at commissioner

Client poaching complaint lands at commissioner

An adviser has alleged his clients were poached by a "large IFA firm" in a complaint which was escalated to the regulator and its watchdog. 

The adviser, who classed himself as a sole trader, claimed the Financial Conduct Authority should have assisted him in taking action against the regulated firm which he claimed stole his former clients. 

In the complaint that ended up with the Complaints Commissioner the adviser said the FCA had shown a "complete lack of interest in bullying and fraud" and the "outright theft" of his clients by the firm. 

The FCA told the adviser his issue fell outside of its regulatory remit, which does not allow the regulator to intervene in commercial disputes or individual complaints, but a member of its complaints team did agree to forward his information on to the relevant areas within the organisation. 

The adviser was also told a complaint in relation to a contractual dispute may not be eligible under the Financial Ombudsman Service, as such matters fell outside the categories over which the ombudsman has jurisdiction to consider. 

In a decision published on its website yesterday (August 20) the Complaints Commissioner sided with the FCA and did not uphold the complaint. 

Whilst commissioner Antony Townsend said he appreciated the adviser felt "very strongly" about the issues raised in his complaint, he agreed with the FCA's stance. 

He said the adviser would have to take his complaint to the courts.

Mr Townsend said: "I appreciate that this is a difficult situation for you, and you have stated on a number of occasions that you do not have the means to commence legal proceedings against a large firm such as Firm X.

"However, the remit of the FCA, the Fos and my office is set out in legislation and none of these organisations is able to provide assistance which would require it to act outside of its remit."

He added: "The fact that you state you are not able to afford legal advice does not mean that the FCA or my office can choose to act outside of our remit and try to adjudicate matters that are a question of contract law.

"That is the role of the courts. You view is that the FCA ought to write to firm X and ask them to resolve your complaint.

"However, for the reasons given above I do not agree that this is something the FCA can do under the complaints scheme." 

Claims of client poaching in the advice sector have been settled in the courts before, notably wealth adviser Towry's loss against advisory business Raymond James in 2012

Towry ultimately was ordered to pay £1.2m in costs to defendants when it lost the court case over claims of client poaching by seven former Edward Jones Advisers after its acquisition of the advice firm in 2009.

rachel.mortimer@ft.com 

What do you think about the issues raised by this story? Email us on fa.letters@ft.com to let us know.