Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mortgage Advisory Centre In Liquidation

Mortgage Advisory Centre In Liquidation

Mortgage Advisory Centre, based in Edinburgh, run by Robert McGrail, a businessman and shareholder in Hearts football club, has reportedly gone into liquidation.

The Financial Services Authority is expected to issue a statement about the firm, within the next few days. It is unclear how many customers have complained about endowment mortgages sold by the company.

Mr McGrail is reported to control the independent broker First Mortgage Direct.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Misery For Scottish Widows

Misery For Scottish Widows

Bad news for those of you who hold with-profits policies with Scottish Widows, the maturity values of these policies have fallen again; despite the recovery of equity markets.

The value of an average 25-year with-profits contract has dropped in the past six months, rather worrying given the fact that the stock market has been rising.

Scottish Widows said that payouts were lower because funds were invested over different time periods, yielding different earnings.

It still expects its £18BN with-profits fund to produce a pre-tax investment return of 15% in the 12 months to end-June, compared to 7.3% in the same period the previous year.

However, the company warned that maturity payouts could continue to fall, even in years where positive investment returns were achieved.

The Widows have tried to explain the reason for the fall as being due to the returns on with-profits, which aim to smooth payouts by holding back some of the return in good years to pay out in the bad, as being historically "significantly higher" than those of late.

To my simple view that means that they were paying out too much in earlier years, and not applying the "smoothing principle" properly.

Now there are two possible reasons for this:

1 Poor management of the policy

2 Deliberate over payment to attract new customers and shareholders

A typical 25-year endowment with Scottish Widows, maturing on 1 August, dropped 2.8% on February and 7.4% on the year. A mortgage-linked endowment over the same period fell 2.8% in value since February and 8.1% over the past year.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Endowment Complaints Rise In Scotland

Endowment Complaints Rise In Scotland

The number of complaints to Scotland's legal watchdog rose by more than a quarter last year, from 395 to 505, arising from the mis-selling of endowment policies.

See The Herald.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Complain Now

Complain Now

Research carried out by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) shows that over a million households feel they have a case for making a complaint for mis-selling, in relation to their useless and underperforming endowment policy.

However, they haven't yet done so.

Come on people, get off your backsides and take action!

Make the life assurance companies pay for their mismanagement of your money.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Can of Worms

The Can of Worms

It seems that the "dear old" life assurance companies, who manage the underperforming and useless endowment polices that are held by over 8 million people, are not content with the damage that these products have done to their reputations.

As if to further dig the knife deeper into this self inflicted wound, some of them are not spelling out clearly enough the time bar deadline on their "red warning letters".

That is at least the view of solicitors Beresfords, from Doncaster, who say that many "red letters" are failing to give adequate warning to policy holders about the time deadline for complaining.

Beresfords is preparing a report on the time limit issue to send to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), and the insurers which sold endowments. They state that up to half of the red warning letters do not identify the deadline.

Martin Ryan, the firm's compliance and regulation officer, is quoted as saying:

"In 50 per cent of cases there don't appear to be valid time bars..There seem to have been a lot of incorrect red letters going out - specifically not drawing the attention of the client to take action or setting no date by which action had to be taken."

Some insurers, ever mindful of their obligations to themselves, are using time bars as a blanket reason not to examine complaints sent to them.

The FSA will hold a meeting of industry bodies, this Friday, to discuss proposals on endowment compensation. It is expected to present research on how claims have been handled, which is believed to cast financial advisers and insurers in a poor light.

It is very clear that the life assurance industry is "closing ranks" on this issue, and will do everything it can to avoid facing the unpalatable truth that it has sold a product that was not fit for purpose.

Endowment polices, that are meant to pay off mortgages, do not work.

It is as simple as that.

As such the life assurance companies should underwrite them.

The life assurance companies whilst trying to bury their heads, and the heads of their policy holders, in the sand over this disgrace will face rather rude shock.

Raymond Donn, senior partner of law firm Donns in Manchester, is quoted as saying:

"We intend to challenge the time bars when the insurance companies start invoking them next year. A lot of people who have mortgages don't know if there is going to be a shortfall."

Martin Ryan, of Beresfords, believes that the industry will try to avoid precedents being set in court.

"At the moment we are talking of industry-imposed time bars..But if a judge got into it, a can of worms could open up for the industry. It would be the first time a judge ran the rule over it. And the industry could find that, in some areas, they might not be able to use time bars at all."

The life assurance industry is learning, whether it likes it or not, that reputations are hard to earn, but easy to squander.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Time To Sue

Time To Sue

It seems that the life assurance industry is guilty of a "being economical with the truth" in trying to persuade their hapless policy holders that once the time bar is down, they have no further rights to claim compensation.

The Observer reports that endowment policy holders still have the right to sue the life assurance companies in the courts.

Not surprisingly the life assurance industry, the same people who sold and mis-managed these useless products, is reluctant to remind people of their rights to sue.

Lawyer Adam Samuel, formerly the Personal Investment Authority Ombudsman, is quoted as saying:

"If anyone took one of these cases to court, the consumer would very probably win. The industry is terrified of this."

The life assurance industry is loath to allow a legal precedent to be set, that could cost billions.

As I have repeated many times on this site, what is actually needed is for there to be a class action taken by the 8 million holders of these useless, underperforming, products.

That will be the most efficient, and effective, method of ensuring that the life assurance industry addresses the failure and mismanagement of these products.