Tony Hetherington is the star investigator for the Financial Mail on Sunday, fighting readers’ corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have run out of money. Find out how to contact him below.
DR writes: My financial advisor David Howe came to me with an offer to invest in stocks. He sent her £25,000. I found out later that he bought the shares in his own name, but he said that this was not a problem.
However, I contacted the company and they say he told them the £25,000 was simply a personal loan I gave him.
Now he has offered to pay me back my £25,000 plus 3 per cent interest, but only when I finally sell the shares.
Tony Hetherington replies: In fact, David Howe is a financial adviser, based in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, but it’s important to explain that this is only true as of December 2020.
Deal done: DR’s financial advisor approached him with an offer to invest in stocks
When the two of you discussed your plan to buy shares in Adviser Services Holdings Limited (ASHL), it was September 2020 and, he emphasizes, he was not anyone’s financial adviser at the time, although it was clear he planned to join ASHL and take a stake. in the company, which he did.
It is also clear that he transferred £25,000 to Howe’s bank account, telling him in subsequent text messages: “I want to see full details of the shares.” To which he replied: ‘I’ll send you the certificate now friend.’ He didn’t send the certificate, and when he asked her, ‘Do you think you can sell my shares?’ He replied: ‘Possibly’.
What stood out to me when I read these texts was that Howe didn’t respond by saying: ‘What actions, what certificate?’ Surely that would be the normal reaction if he had simply lent you £25,000.
To get to the bottom of this, I asked Michael Couzens, the ASHL boss, if it would be normal for one of his advisers to ask for a £25,000 loan, with no written conditions. He agreed that the whole situation was “confusing.” His company had been caught in the middle of his dispute with David Howe. But one thing stood out, he told me. You could never have become a shareholder in ASHL because shares were only offered to employees or new recruits.
ASHL had questioned Howe about the text messages and he had dismissed them as mere pranks between friends. But if the £25,000 was a loan, it was hard to see why there was no proper deal. I invited Howe to comment and asked him how it would be correct for him to say that he would only pay him when he sold his shares. If there was an agreement, then any informal loan is repayable on demand. Howe’s response was to say that he and you were friends at the time.
He added: “I hope now they can see that there is malicious intent in this accusation.” I replied that I could not see any malice. You were entitled to the shares or the money, and it was not malicious to expect one or the other.
According to Howe, he didn’t even ask you for a loan. He says that you insisted on providing him with the money so that he could buy the shares for himself. And you refused to consider putting any agreement in writing. He added that he had offered to pay you back, at 8 percent interest, not 3 percent, but you declined. This immediate refund offer still stood, he explained. When I conveyed this to you, you told me to say yes please, that you would accept the repayment and interest, making £27,000 in total, to put an end to the whole thing. I told Howe you’d take the deal. A week later, he said that he was “on annual leave” and that he would see his lawyer when he returned so that a formal contract could be drawn up. The ‘immediate’ refund seemed to evaporate. Instead, Howe referred to paying “within a reasonable time.”
Howe sent me the contract. Fortunately, he simply made it clear that the payment ended the dispute. He signed it, and £27,000 came into his account, three weeks after he said yes to the ‘immediate’ refund.
It’s kind of a decent ending, but I’m still baffled by the idea of a professional adviser borrowing such a large sum with absolutely no evidence of the loan, interest, or repayment terms.
Evri charges do not stack
Ms JG writes: On two or three occasions, the Evri courier company has charged us additional charges, claiming that the packages were overweight even though we carefully weighed them. So, we began to photograph our packages on the scales.
My husband recently sold a bike and we meticulously packed, measured and weighed everything.
Five days later an invoice for £10.80 arrived, saying our package was too big and heavy!
Major issue: Evri has been billing _for additional charges
Tony Hetherington replies: The heart of the problem was that Evri, who used to be called Hermes, wouldn’t deliver the bike until you paid. With the impatient buyer, you felt compelled to shell out and sure enough, within three hours the bike was delivered.
You told me you’d measured the packaging to the millimeter and then weighed the bike, which was comfortably under Evri’s 30-pound limit. But trying to complain left him spinning, even being told that she was complaining to the wrong complaints department.
Evri told me that she apologizes to you and your husband, adding, “When you contacted our customer service team, we immediately recognized the error and refunded the additional charge.” Immediately? She first complained by phone on July 6 and then by email on July 10. I contacted Evri on July 29. Her refund arrived on July 31.
They owe me £35,000… why is it so late?
Ms. JP writes: I came across the article you posted last October about the late payment by Sun Life Financial of Canada.
When I called them to check on the progress of my claim after my father’s death, they told me they were only working on claims filed five or six months earlier, while my own claim was only a month old.
They gave several excuses such as Covid and the migration of their systems. The amount due is £35,000.
Concern: SLFC says it is now working on a backlog of claims
Tony Hetherington replies: Sun Life Financial of Canada (SLFC) had given me the impression that claims were responded to quickly, except in really complex cases. That being said, several readers have told me that when they pursued a claim, they were told that the delays were due to data migration from one computer system to another.
In addition to complaining about the delays, you requested SLFC to return the certified copy of your father’s will that you provided, so I inquired about this as well.
SLFC admitted that a new system launched last year caused delays, but added: “Responding to our customers’ complaints in a timely manner remains our top priority.”
Your £35,000 has already been paid, plus interest. But SLFC mistakenly destroyed the certified copy of his father’s will, so he can’t return it. He has offered an additional payment to make up for this.
If you believe you are the victim of financial crime, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of inquiries, personal answers cannot be given. Send only copies of the original documents, which we regret that we cannot return.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.