Questions of Cash: An urgent request that got lost in the rules


In January, I asked M&G to sell part of my Pep. I needed money quickly and instructed M&G to credit my bank account. M&G confirmed it would do this. Then it wrote again asking for proof of identity, which I sent by return of post. After a week I phoned and was told my instruction had been ignored because I had approved a charge of £20 for payment direct to my account and that it would take four more days for a cheque to be sent, to comply with money-laundering rules. I am still waiting for the payment.


DM, London.

In January, I asked M&G to sell part of my Pep. I needed money quickly and instructed M&G to credit my bank account. M&G confirmed it would do this. Then it wrote again asking for proof of identity, which I sent by return of post. After a week I phoned and was told my instruction had been ignored because I had approved a charge of £20 for payment direct to my account and that it would take four more days for a cheque to be sent, to comply with money-laundering rules. I am still waiting for the payment.
DM, London.

M&G, owned by Prudential, apologises and agrees it has not provided you with acceptable service. It has now lodged the payment directly into your bank account free, and is sending you £25 compensation.

When we sold our family business seven years ago, our accountant advised us to invest £36,000 in venture capital trusts (VCTs) run by Advent and Close Bros. Initially, we received reasonable returns, but these have fallen. We want to sell the VCTs and reinvest more safely, but the fund manager says they are worth only 35p in the pound. Is this a common problem? How do we get out of them?
GW, Dartmouth.

Hugh Rogers, analyst at the adviser Bestinvest, says: "VCTs are a high-risk investment that can be attractive to individuals who want to defer capital gains tax, and enjoy tax-free growth with 20 per cent income tax relief at the outset.

"At the time of investing, stock markets were strong and the outlook promising, but VCTs invest in young, small companies which were badly hit by the downturn.

"There is little you can do, except wait until the VCT winds up, when the discount is realised. Many brokers are unwilling to buy VCTs, so they offer well below prevailing offer price. By selling the VCT your capital gains tax liability, probably deferred when you sold your business, becomes payable."

"It is not clear that your accountant gave bad advice. If you want to seek compensation from her you should complain first to her, and if not satisfied you could contact her professional accountancy body. But you would probably have to take legal action and will need advice. You risk being ruled out of time because the statute of limitation requires legal action to be initiated within six years of the cause of the problem, or within three years of becoming aware of it.

I was sold a Standard Life endowment policy in 1986 by an independent adviser, Ian Urwin, of Belfast, who told me I would have a surplus on maturity in 2011.

The policy leaves me with a potential shortfall of £10,000 on my mortgage. I complained to the adviser, Standard Life, and the Financial Ombudsman, but they will not help me. What should I do? MH, Belfast.

Yours is a problem we have highlighted several times over the past few months. Independent advisers are not liable for failure of advice in selling endowments before 28 August, 1988. This is why the Financial Ombudsman cannot review your case.

Your adviser, Ian Urwin, who now trades as UIS Travelcare, denies mis-selling. He says that at the time Standard Life was the best endowment provider, and product literature sent to you made clear endowments were share-based investments which did not guarantee full mortgage repayment. Standard Life has no responsibility for the sale.

Many thousands of people are in a similar situation to yours, with no chance of compensation. Set up a repayment mortgage alongside your endowment to put you on course to clear your mortgage.

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