Barclays has made an extraordinary apology to Financial Mail over the mis-selling of a risky stock market investment to thousands of mainly older, risk averse customers.

Recent FCA Update:

Our review of sales in the TLPI market revealed high levels of unsuitable advice.  We are worried that this market could grow and cause further customer losses in the future.

As a result, we have recommended that these products should not reach ordinary retail investors in the UK. This would mean that firms should not be marketing, recommending or selling these products to the mass retail market.

 

Mis-Sold Investments

The bank’s bosses are trying to draw a line under the scandal involving the Aviva Global Balanced Income Fund, a high-risk stock market investment mainly sold in 2007.

Financial Mail has carried reports over the past year revealing that thousands of Barclays customers, including those with no investment experience and those in their 90s, were pressured by Barclays staff to put their entire life savings into it.

Until now, senior Barclays staff have strenuously denied any systematic problem. The bank has also refused to compensate most complainants, instead forcing them to go to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which has often found against the bank. Even then, Barclays defied the recommendations of FOS adjudicators in many cases.

But now Barclays bosses appear to have had second thoughts and have issued an apology to Financial Mail and a pledge to sort the problem out once and for all.

The bank says: ‘We are fully aware of the concerns raised by some of our customers who have invested in the Aviva Global Income Funds and we are sorry for the stress this has caused. We also regret that this has been exacerbated by the length of time taken to resolve some complaints.

‘We have agreed with The Financial Ombudsman Service a new approach to handling outstanding complaints and we expect the majority to be resolved within the next few weeks.

‘We want to reassure customers that we will offer redress where appropriate, according to the guidance provided by FOS. It is clear that in some instances we have failed to meet the high standards that our customers expect from us and for this we are sorry.’

The change of heart might have something to do with a highly effective protest held at the House of Commons last week (see report, below) in which dozens of near-identical apparent mis-selling cases were related by constituents to their MPs, who listened in horror.

Shortly after the protest, Barclays officials met the FOS to see how it could better deal with the hundreds of complaints made. The bank is likely to take a more generous approach to compensation, it hinted.

Lesley Virgo was among more than 70 Barclays customers to travel to Westminster last week from her home in Cwmbran, Monmouthshire. In early 2007, Lesley raised £465,000 through the sale of her residential home business and as soon as the money went into her current account at Barclays, where she had banked for 44 years, Barclays salesmen were on the phone urging her to invest it.

Lesley, 50, is a divorcee who had no stock market experience. She did not want to take any risks and reckoned she could draw an income of four per cent from the money in a deposit account (feasible in 2007).

‘But the saleswoman told me I could do much better,’ she says. ‘She was talking seven, eight per cent.’ The issue of risk was blurred over or simply not acknowledged, says Lesley.

She took £65,000 to spend on home improvements and other immediate needs and the remaining £400,000

went into the fund. By late 2008 she discovered that her holding was worth £210,000. ‘I was sick with worry,’ she recalls. ‘I felt sick when I went to bed and sick in the morning when I woke up.’

In 2009 she sold her holdings and crystalised a £189,000 loss. She also began a complaint against Barclays.

Barclays initially admitted some fault and paid her £90,000. Lesley then took her claim for the remainder-of the loss to the FOS. Following Barclays’ climbdown regarding these cases, it has this weekend confirmed that Lesley will be compensated fully.

This has not satisfied Paul Cooper, who co-ordinated last week’s protest. Cooper, who runs CLAIMS (claims-uk.co.uk), a reputable business helping consumers win compensation from banks, says: ‘This is a chink of light, but we want a full review of everyone who was sold this fund – which is some 4,000 people – conducted by the regulator.’

There is an ironic twist to Lesley’s story. ‘When Barclays paid the £90,000 compensation into my current account, you won’t guess what happened next,’ she says.

‘A salesman from Barclays rang me up immediately, offering to advise me on how to invest it.’

The shocking stories told to MPs by some of the mis-selling victims.

More than 70 clients of Barclays from all over the country travelled to the House of Commons on Tuesday to tell shocked MPs how the bank had wrongly persuaded them to put most or all of their savings into a single, high-risk investment that had virtually no record.

For more than an hour MPs listened as angry customers related depressingly similar stories. Most were pensioners. Most were contacted by Barclays staff because, for one reason or another, they had large sums in their current accounts.

Most had no experience of investing in the stock market. Most had been lifelong customers of Barclays and trusted the bank implicitly. Most initially wanted to invest their money, typically the proceeds from a property or business sale, into a deposit account.

Yet most were persuaded by Barclays salesmen to invest the money into just one stock market fund – the notorious Aviva Global Balanced Income fund that subsequently halved in value.

Having had no joy in complaining to the bank itself over the past year, these savers had finally converged on Parliament to demand justice.

There was the plumber, for example, who had sold his business for £500,000 and who was advised by Barclays to put ‘every last penny’ into the Aviva fund. He lost more than £200,000.

There was the 91-year-old who had stressed to Barclays that he could not risk any of his capital, also advised to put all his savings into the fund.

There was the pensioner, severely dyslexic, whose wife had just died, who was persuaded to do the same, even though he warned Barclays that his reading and writing were poor. Then there was the man who still had a mortgage, who was nonetheless advised by Barclays to put all the money into the Aviva fund. And so it went on.

The MPs were shocked. Stephen Hammond, Tory member for Wimbledon, south-west London, who sponsored the meeting, said he was ‘staggered’.

Savers’ near-identical experiences suggested Barclays’ abuse of its customers was ‘systematic’, he added.


Mis-Sold Investments Resource

Investment Mis-Selling – Barclays’ £60m compensation bill

Thousands of people investing their retirement savings were given poor advice by Barclays, which must now pay millions of pounds in compensation.

The bank has been fined £7.7m by the Financial Services Authority and will pay up to £60m compensation to customers of two investment funds. One in seven of the 12,000 investors complained about the advice received from July 2006 to November 2008.

Barclays accepted it had ‘let customers down’ and has apologised.

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Mis-Sold Investments – Midlands, UK

Maple Leaf Financial have a specialist team of solicitors dedicated to dealing with mis-sold investments from, PEP’s, ISA’s, whole life policies, see list below. We are happy to review these Investment products and to claim compensation for our clients where appropriate.

Each investment case is different and they are all assessed individually. Sometimes we can claim because investments were simply unsuitable and they were mis-sold. In other cases it may be because of technical shortcomings in contracts, regulatory issues or a combination of these factors.

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Mis-Sold Retirement Case Study

Such was the case for a couple about to retire. They asked an independent financial advisor how best to invest an inheritance of £62,000. The advisor suggested stashing £55,000 into investment bonds. The rest of the cash, including £21,500 in other Isas, would be funneled into shares Isa and stocks.

The upfront costs would be high, and the advisor told the couple not to touch the retirement stash for five years. After paying the fees, they were assured that the investment would allow them to take out about £4,000 annually.

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Tim Capper reports on Financial Mis-Selling for Maple Leaf Financial. Our aim is to ensure you get honest advice and proper guidance to ensure a suitable recommendation can be made to pursue a financial claim


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Tim Capper

Bringing you financial news and information in plain english for Maple Leaf Financial. My aim is to help readers understand these often complex financial instruments.