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Gibraltar FSC - 2

INVESTORS BE WARNED YOU HAVE NO PROTECTION whatsoever INVESTING WITH GIBRALTAR COMPANIES.

Many of our members have been involved with Colin Labrow. Labrow International Financial Management Limited (LIFML) relinquished its licence, and was wound up towards the end of 1998.  

Here is a typical case and we have many of these:

Edificio Orfeo Azul

Apt 510

Ctra de Cadiz KM222
29630 Benalmadena Costa

Malaga

Spain
Tel: 0034 952 446935

30.9.2003

Labrow International Financial Management Limited

C/O Sovereign Asset Management Limited

Suite 2B, Mansion House

143 Main Street

Gibraltar

Dear Sir,

COMPLAINT

WE ARE: -

Mr Percy Griffin – Date Of Birth: 20.09.1925

Mrs June Griffin – Date Of Birth: 03.06.1934

 

FINANCIAL ADVISER

Mr Kevin White (employee of Labrow at the time we were advised)

Mr White can now be contacted at the following address:

Allied International Independent Offshore Financial Advisers

Apartado de Correos No 614

29649 La Cala de Mijas

Mijas Costa

Malaga

Spain

 

BACKGROUND

We are both retired with no income and live on the Costa Del Sol.  We receive only our United Kingdom State Pensions.

We take the Sur in English and Entertainer newspapers for news and information; we also listen to the English Radio Onda Cero 101.6 fm.

We run a club in Benalmadena Costa for English people now living in Spain.  As a result of a visit to this club by Kevin White, offering excellent returns plus income from investments we decided to make further contact with him regarding the investment he was promoting.

 

 

THE ADVICE

We were advised to sell a property we owned which provided rental income, with the promise that we could invest the money through Kevin and based upon his advice and receive a 10% per annum income.  We were advised that this 10% income would be achieved without our original capital amount falling in value.

Kevin knew that we could not afford to lose our original capital because it was the only money we had for the rest of our lives.

The money realised from the property was 8,500,000pta and the whole lot was invested with Hansard International, upon Kevin's advice, on the 19th June 1996. The policy number is 52990T.  Kevin undertook all of the paperwork.  We were just asked to sign the application form.

FEES

We were not given any options in this regard.  We believe Kevin was paid commission by Hansard International for introducing the business to them.  Hansard will not disclose the amount of commission paid because there is no legislation in place for disclosing this information.

THE INVESTMENT

Our total investment was 8,500,000pta.

The investment is a Hansard International Capital Builder and the money was invested in one fund only.  We do not know why the money was not spread between other funds but did not know to question the advice we were given.  Our money was invested in the LABROW International Peseta High Yield Fund.

We still do not know why Kevin advised us to invest in this fund.  We find it strange that Labrow were his employer and we were advised to invest in a Labrow fund, but through Hansard International in the Isle of Man.  Perhaps you could explain.

We believe this fund was closed (although we do not know for certain) and Kevin recommended the funds be transferred to other funds.

The investment is now split between the following funds:

HIL Fidelity Iberia Fund

HIL European Growth Fund

HIL European Managed Fund.

Since our investment starting falling in value we asked someone to look into these three funds and explain them to us plainly.  We were shocked that someone of Griff's age (72 when he was advised to invest) was recommended stock market linked investments when we needed our money to be safe and generate a regular and stable income for us.

We believe these funds are high-risk funds, bearing in mind there is apparently an additional currency risk.

Our property with rental income would have been much safer, it might have increased in value and we would still have our capital and income.  At this moment, we hardly have any money left.

We have been told that the charges for this investment are very substantial.

We have also been told that Kevin's promise of 10% per annum income with capital at the same level was never going to be achievable.

Even if the investment makes10% growth the charges would reduce it down. This means that to get a 10% return with our capital untouched would require growth EVERY year of between 13% - 15%.

This was apparently not being achieved when the investment was recommended and has never been achieved since. We believe we were given empty promises and negligent advice for the prospect of commission for this adviser with no regard for our financial situation, our needs or the level of risk involved for us.

CONTRACTS NOT IN SPANISH

All paperwork we signed was in English.

INCOME TAKEN FROM OUR INVESTMENT

Because we were assured we could take 10% of our original capital out as income without the value of our capital falling, we took an income of 212,500pta from October 1996 and it was paid quarterly.

Kevin advised us to reduce our income in 1999 but we were still unaware that the income we were taking was actually our capital.

June 2002 was the last income payment (then in Euro).

Despite us asking Kevin for additional advice on our investment and questioning whether we should move our money because of the losses he said no. 

He said that we should leave our money invested in the same funds and with the same company. This happened on numerous occasions.

When we started raising questions with Kevin regarding the value of our investments, the least he could have done is researched lower risk funds (even cash) and helped us move. We understand that Hansard offers many protected value funds and deposit funds. Apparently, there is absolutely no reason for us being exposed to the risks of higher risk funds.

THE CURRENT STATE OF OUR INVESTMENT

The value of our investment fell to 15,554.81euro but has now recovered slightly, due to the performance of the stock markets.  We only recently became aware of this and this is when we took action and asked someone to look into it for us.

THE INVOLVEMENT OF HANSARD INTERNATIONAL

The fact that Kevin White is allowed to go round to these clubs advising people on Hansard products, because they gave him an agency to accept business from him is serious.

Hansards also apparently have a duty of care to ensure they accept business from competent intermediaries. They have a duty to investigate the person/company they will be dealing with before they accept business from them.  We believe they did none of this and just accepted whatever business he gave them.

Hansard International is advocating its products being sold by poor advisers with few (or no) ethics. These people will sell whatever they can to earn the commission paid by Hansards, knowing that there can never be any comeback because they are not registered to trade or under the supervision of any regulatory authority.

Although Kevin as the adviser (and Labrow as his employer) is the one at fault because he did not ensure that we were aware of and understood the risks involved, Hansard also has a big part to play.  This is because they gave Kevin an agency and allowed him to place business through them.

Fundamentally, Hansard has to share the responsibility of allowing an unauthorised adviser to sell their products. This is the reason we are now in extreme financial difficulty which cannot be ignored or just put down to poor advice. The advice process is only one part of the problem.

Hansard has provided us with various information regarding due diligence and we are far from satisfied that advisers and their companies are ever checked or monitored.  This information is available upon request.

SUMMARY

We wholly maintain we were never told the level of risk attached to this investment and we always believed our capital to be safe.

When we valued the investment in February 2002 (17,094.68euro) we were so upset and angry that the only money we have has fallen from around £43,000 to around £10,000.

This is all the money we have for our retirement and have already had to stop taking income, thereby severely cutting our standard of living.

This means that we now live on the UK Basic State Pension alone and if anything happened to either of us, the other would be in serious trouble.

The fact that the risk of the investment and the effect of charges were never explained is bad enough but, the fact that Kevin has repeatedly told us to leave our money in the same funds is terrible.

The fact he advised us to take out this investment in the first place, we believe, was negligent.

We feel so strongly about people being badly advised by advisers who do not have to suffer the consequences and financial hardship.

When an adviser makes recommendations for retirement capital surely they always have to bear in mind that if there are losses, there is not much time to make them up and the fact that people will rely on the capital for income.

Advisers cannot be allowed to just play with our capital when there is no chance for future earnings or income coming from elsewhere.

We do not know what to do for the best.  If we cash our investment in and use it to live on there will be nothing left in a short space of time.  If we leave it invested it could fall to nothing.

We are so angry that we have been mis sold an investment and we feel the adviser was negligent in his advice and all subsequent actions.  He has a duty of care when advising us on our portfolio, which has obviously not been the case.

We are now aware of a group of other investors who have been mis led in the same way, being sold similar poor products that are totally unsuitable for their needs.

We have various documents to confirm our complaint and await hearing from you.

When replying, please send a copy to Mr Klein.  His address is noted on the enclosed authority form.  He is co-ordinating this matter on our behalf.

Yours faithfully

Percy and June Griffin

_______________________________________________

Brian Morris
Investment Services Supervisor
Financial Services Commission

Dear Mr Morris


Thank you for your recent email. I appreciate that there will necessarily be limitations in the resources available to the Financial Services Commission in Gibraltar despite the fact that this, in itself, is extremely disappointing when you consider the importance of your role in protecting individuals from inappropriate advice, inappropriate advertising and more serious matters.


It is also extremely surprising that you consider a "self-appointed pressure group" as being low priority. My group of concerned individuals is comprised of a diverse range of people who have one single common denominator. They have been provided with inappropriate advice, which in many cases has meant severe hardship and in some cases the loss of the individual's home. What else are disaffected investors expected to do and what other form of pressure group is available apart from one established by those afflicted by the activities of unethical and unregulated advisers.


I understood that the responsibility of the Financial Services Commission extended to ensuring that you properly regulated the advertising and financial services provided by companies, which fall under your regulatory supervision. Is this not so? This is particularly important when certain of those services or the advice provided is also required to be regulated in another sovereign state. The reputation of Gibraltar as a financial services centre is under scrutiny as a result of the advice provided by advisers who are regulated by your organisation.
My "locus" in this matter is simply to protect unsuspecting individuals from responding to advertising or receiving advice from businesses, which are not appropriately regulated for the activity they carry out in Spain .
I do not profess to have an entirely adequate understanding of the law in the area of cross-border transactions within the European Union. I appreciate that companies domiciled within the EU have certain rights under the Single Market Treaty. However, this does not override the requirements of individual Member States.
Advice, per se, is not a regulated activity in Spain . However, trading in quoted securities is a regulated activity. In addition, assisting an individual in making a decision to instruct a trade in a quoted security (i.e. "executing a transaction in securities") is also required to be regulated under the domestic financial services legislation of Spain .


Whilst you have an absolute right to exercise your privileges under the EU Single Market Treaty you have to ensure that those businesses which are regulated by you do not damage the interests of individuals who have a right to protection under the regulations provided in Spain . In addition, any breach of these regulations by Gibraltar based companies may have more complex political implications, which I would assume you, and the Government of Gibraltar, would wish to avoid.
As a regulatory authority you need to exercise considerable care to ensure that those companies which are regulated by you do not breach domestic Spanish financial services law nor the regulatory requirements enshrined within her Statutes.
I will continue to report any breaches, which I consider material to the Spanish regulatory authority as it appears that you are prepared to treat breaches of this nature with a less than serious or solution based approach to the problem.
Yours sincerely,
David Klein

CC .All Financial Services in Europe

© COSTA DEL SOL ACTION GROUP
Against Unlicenced Financial Advisers & Product Providers that support them.