We are interested in any investments in which TQ Property Law represented investors. TQ has been associated with several collapsed investments. There is a group legal claim in progress against the insurance company which provided the cover for TQ Property Law. The company no longer exists, but that does not mean that claims cannot be made if there is evidence of professional negligence because the insurance cover may still be valid. There may still be recovery options available to its clients. Please use our Contact Form [LINK] if you would like further information.
We are interested in any investments which involved the law firm of Maxwell Alves. This firm has been associated with several collapsed investments and, although now dissolved, we believe there may be recovery options available to its clients. Two different law firms are currently running group actions on behalf of investors in different scams. Please use our Contact Form [LINK] if you would like to get in touch.
Alastair Dobbie is a consultant solicitor to Shortlands Law Firm Ltd. The ‘About Us’ page of the Shortlands website describes the service that Shortlands provides to its clients [LINK HERE].
Over the last 10 years, Shortlands has been instructed in over (10000) cases. Founded in 2004 by Principal Shabana Walayat, Shortlands is recognized for representing high net worth individuals in the UK and abroad, with a special focus on complex cases where children and wealth need to be protected. For people who lead busy lives, Shortlands helps you understand your grounds for divorce or separation and offer you solutions that best meet your needs, emotionally and financially…….
Since 2004 we have grown our team of expert lawyers, all of whom have extensive experience in working with some of the most complex divorce cases in the UK and abroad involving financial disputes and child care arrangements.
The page also shows the team members, including Alastair Dobbie. He is the one without an image and with no information about him. It is clear that Shortlands specialises in divorce and separations. It is therefore surprising to find Shortlands offering advice on corporate insolvency and property law to victims of investment scams.
Alastair Dobbie has teamed up with a sales agent called Roberto Pancaldi to offer advice and assistance to victims of investment scams. You can read a bit about their activities in relation to Qualiacare in our earlier article [LINK]. The Dobbie-Pancaldi team has persuaded investors in four scams to instruct them, but they have not told the truth to those investors and there has not been full disclosure of their involvement and status.
As a sales agent for the scams, Roberto Pancaldi has access to other sales agents and their client details. He persuades sales agents to introduce their investors and then makes a sales pitch detailing why investors need the services of Alastair Dobbie. The usual format is:
I am an investor in this project, just like you. I’m facing the same kinds of losses that you are. I’ve got a great lawyer who will look after your interests. Unfortunately, you need to pay him now because time is pressing and you’ll be in trouble if you wait.
I’m going to establish ‘investor groups’ led by you guys. All you have to do is send out whatever you are given, but send it out as if it has come from you because other investors are more likely to join up if the letter comes from another investor. The communications will not be signed so please put your name to them.
Unfortunately, many investors pay up. A Qualiacare investor told us he joined out of fear because the letter said he had no time and he needed to pay immediately if he wanted to be represented. More than 200 people were persuaded to join up in this manner. The same is true of Carlauren investors who were misled into paying fees as quickly as possible.
However…. ROBERTO PANCALDI WAS NOT TELLING THE TRUTH. He is not an investor in any of these scams. He is not registered as a room owner in any of them and he has not paid for any room lease.
One St Camillus investor who has been recruited as “an investor co-ordinator” challenged us. He was adamant that Roberto Pancaldi owns a hotel room at No.7 La Tour Hotel (a St Camillus hotel). He told us that Pancaldi’s company owned the room. We had to explain that the company which owns a room at that hotel is Marcnico Ltd. The company director is Roberto Pancaldi, but all the shares are owned by two Italian investors. Roberto Pancaldi doesn’t own the company and he never paid any money for the room. The two Italian investors paid for their room and Roberto Pancaldi was paid commission by St Camillus for selling it to them. Commission is normally between 10% – 15% paid to the bottom link in the commission chain, but typically works out around 30% when all the other links in the sales agent chain are taken into account. There is evidence of such high commission rates being paid in hotel room and care home room scams.
Roberto Pancaldi operates his own sales company called SocInvest. Here’s a link to the website [LINK HERE]. It’s still advertising hotel rooms for sale. On the website he offers to establish UK Limited companies for investors and to be their company director. He says it can be easier and have tax advantages for overseas investors. That’s what has happened in Marcnico Ltd.
The important point is that Roberto Pancaldi has not lost any money to these scams. He lies to investors to get them to sign up and he deceives innocent investors into acting as recruiters for the highly questionable ‘lease protection / legal representation’ service which we believe does not result in any greater recovery for investors. Surely the point of any legal representation in an investment scam is that by paying the solicitor the client has the potential to recover more money. If the client has no financial benefit why would they pay for, or need, the legal service ? They would just be increasing their losses.
We recently wrote an article on St Camillus Investors [LINK HERE]. We described how Roberto Pancaldi organised a Zoom meeting attended by Alastair Dobbie and more than 30 investors. The investors were asked to pay £580 per room so that Alastair Dobbie could give advice on the insolvency of the St Camillus companies. A lot of investors paid up. However, thanks to our article exposing this behaviour the demand for £580 from new investors was dropped. Those who had paid did not receive a refund.
Qualiacare investors are being asked to pay more money towards “a fighting fund” although, with the Financial Conduct Authority already having intervened in the Qualia scam and taking action to protect investors, it’s not clear who Alastair Dobbie intends to fight ! If it’s the FCA I think investors should think twice before paying any more money. Carlauren investors face similar requests to pay extra money into the pot.
In the St Camillus article we mentioned the company where Roberto Pancaldi is a nominee director (Marcnico Ltd – LINK HERE). This company was incorporated so that the two Italian investors could buy a room in one of the Northern Powerhouse Developments properties. This was one of the earliest room scams. We mentioned the existence of a charge registered against the company [LINK HERE]. If the VIEW PDF link is selected it will show on page 3 that the charge was registered by B&M Law. We did not think that was important at the time, but it is now. Four years later the same two investors were sold a room at St Camillus No.7 La Tour hotel and they used their company Marcnico Ltd to make that purchase.
We know Roberto Pancaldi sold rooms for several scams including NPD, Carlauren, Qualiacare and St Camillus. In every case those investors used B&M Law as their legal advisers to make the purchases.
What do we know about Alastair Dobbie ? We know that he became a solicitor in 2014. We know that he was originally a ‘consultant solicitor’ at Feltons Solicitors LLP and that his contract was cancelled. Feltons refused to pay him on the grounds that his work was sub-standard and had to be redone by the owner of the firm. They described it as being “of no value to the firm”. A report on the Tribunal can be found via this link [LINK HERE].
We can get a very good idea of Alastair Dobbie’s employment history from his own LinkedIn page [LINK HERE]. Obviously, this page was written by Alastair Dobbie so you would expect the section titled ‘EXPERIENCE’ to be a full history. He describes his time at Feltons. He states he was there from October 2010 until September 2016. He then describes taking up a position as consultant solicitor with Shortlands Law Firm in the same month he left Feltons, which is where he remains to this day.
Well, that’s very odd indeed because Alastair Dobbies’ LinkedIn profile doesn’t tie up with the employment status described on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website. Here is the SRA entry [LINK HERE]. This shows that Alastair Dobbie is registered as a consultant solicitor with TWO law firms. One of them is Shortlands Law Firm. The other is B&M Law – the law firm which provided legal services to investors to enable them to buy rooms in the scam investments. If the SRA is correct, which we believe it is, then Alastair Dobbie has chosen not to mention his role with B&M Law on his Linkedin profile. That’s not surprising because it would ring alarm bells with investors.
We thought it would be sensible to check the B&M Law website [LINK HERE]. There he is. Same as the Shortlands page. His name is listed as a team member but there is no image and no information.
So, just to recap.
1. Alastair Dobbie is listed as a consultant solicitor to B&M Law. This law firm acted for investors in NPD, Carlauren, Qualiacare and St Camillus, going as far back as 2015.
2. It is alleged that these schemes were unregulated collective investment schemes and were therefore unlawful. The FCA have intervened in Qualiacare and have made that allegation against the Qualia companies. If proven, investors may have claims against the law firms which acted for them. This would include B&M Law. They may also have claims against individual solicitors and sales agents.
3. Roberto Pancaldi has made statements to investors that he is a room owner and is facing large losses, yet he doesn’t own any rooms. He introduces Alastair Dobbie to investors as a solicitor who can help them.
4. Alastair Dobbie has not declared his involvement with B&M Law, does not list it on his LinkedIn page and has not commented on Roberto Pancaldi’s claims to own rooms. It’s fair to assume that Alastair Dobbie would know whether or not Roberto Pancaldi owned any rooms. If he knew, should he have made it clear to investors that Roberto Pancaldi was not a genuine room owner ? We think he should.
5. Investors are told to hurry up and pay because time is against them.
6. We don’t know if NPD investors have been asked to pay more, but we know that both Carlauren and Qualiacare investors have been asked to make further payments.
What does a sales agent do when the scams collapse and room sales are no longer possible ? He looks for another money-making scheme. We think Roberto Pancaldi has found one.
At the beginning of March we received a letter from Shortlands Law Firm. We responded as follows:
We have investors who signed up with Alastair Dobbie in some of his actions out of fear. That was how one investor described it to us. They were told their leases were at risk when they were not.
We presume that is the purpose of the ‘co-ordinator’ letters i.e to suggest to investors that all will be lost unless they pay Shortlands and they must do so almost immediately.
We regard Mr Dobbie’s involvement as simply a means to generate fees from investors who have already fallen victim to the unlawful sales efforts of some of your existing clients. Under FSMA it is unlawful to be involved in the formation, promotion, sale or operation of a UCIS.
We consider it to be a serious omission and breach of your duty to clients not to make them aware that the FCA allegations made in the Qualiacare case, if proven, would entitle clients to compensation from sales agents, some of whom are also your clients and who have the role of ‘investor co-ordinators’ under the Pancaldi/Dobbie structure. That also applies in Carlauren, NPD and now St Camillus.
We believe you must make that clear to all your clients immediately. Please confirm that you will do so.
We did not receive a reply and we know that investors were not informed. At that time we did not know of Alastair Dobbie’s involvement with B&M Law which makes our comments even more relevant.
A Qualiacare investor has confirmed that Alastair Dobbie’s advice to the investor group keeps changing. He feels that Mr Dobbie is not competent to give advice on insolvency or property matters and has stated his intention to write to Shortlands de-instructing the company and demanding a full refund. We have some more questions which we are putting to Shortlands today. We believe investors should also ask more questions of Alastair Dobbie and their ‘investor co-ordinators’. Our questions to Shortlands are:
1. Were you aware that Alastair Dobbie is a consultant solicitor with B&M Law ?
2. Were you aware that B&M Law was involved in the sale of leases to investors in the Northern Powerhouse Developments, Carlauren, Qualiacare and St Camillus scams when you began approaching investors to offer legal services ?
3. Are you aware of the SRA Warnings that law firms should not get involved in high-risk investments, including the sale of hotel rooms, and that law firms and lawyers who do get involved could be liable to compensate investors for their losses ?
4. If the answer to any of the above is Yes, please can you explain the level of Mr Dobbie’s involvement at B&M Law, the duties he performed and why this was not communicated to the victims of scams before they instructed your law firm. Do you regard Alastair Dobbie as having a conflict of interest ?
5. Has Alastair Dobbie or Shortlands notified the investor groups that legal advisers who were negligent in their advice to clients can be liable to compensate investors and that may include a law firm associated with Alastair Dobbie, and even Alastair Dobbie himself ?
6. Does Alastair Dobbie and/or Shortlands have any financial arrangement with Roberto Pancaldi or any of his companies to pay him any commissions, introduction fees or any other compensation relating to the introduction of clients or to the provision of services related to investments ? If so, why has this not been declared to investors who have made financial contributions for recovery action services ? If such an arrangement exists and has not been declared to clients this would raise serious questions as to the honesty and integrity of the people involved.
7. Are any parties paid any commission, introduction fee or other compensation and if so, which parties ?
8. Is it acceptable for Alastair Dobbie to write letters to investors and not sign them ? Are you aware of any occasions where he has done this ? Investors who have been duped into becoming ‘investor co-ordinators’ are being asked to send out letters under their own name when those letters were not written by them.
9. In light of the information in this article do you feel that Shortlands should now self-report to the SRA requesting them to investigate ?
We have noticed that any correspondence to Marcnico Ltd goes to Roberto Pancaldi, not the two shareholders. We have also noticed that the email addresses for individual investors who bought through Socinvest have contact emails with the word ‘socinvest’ in them. This would suggest that all communications to investors who bought through Roberto Pancaldi are going to him. It is entirely possible that those investors may never be made aware of their legal positions in respect of compensation claims against the sales agent and the law firm they used.
Our advice to investors remains the same. If an investor feels it necessary to take legal advice on insolvency matters they should consult a specialist insolvency lawyer who knows what they are doing. It makes much more sense.
Qualiacare investors have paid £1,000 each for the services of Alastair Dobbie. Roberto Pancaldi has told them that there are at least 230 investors in the group. That’s a nice payday. We have a feeling that a lot of investors will want answers.
We still find it very surprising that Shortlands Law Firm would have allowed its name to be used in such a way if it had been in possession of the full facts. Investment scams are very far removed from Family Law, a field in which Shortlands has very good reputation.
We know the names of all the “investor co-ordinators” but will not publish them. It is unclear as to which ones are genuine investors and which have been strategically inserted. If any investor feels there was not full disclosure by Alastair Dobbie and that they were misled into becoming clients of Shortlands, they should ask for their money back.
Legal actions are already underway for investors in other property-related scams who used either Gordon Brown Law Firm [LINK] or Maxwell Alves Solicitors [LINK] or TQ Property Law [LINK]. These companies were heavily involved in offering legal services to investors in hotel room and care home room scams.
The Star Hotel Great Yarmouth.
We believe the sale of hotel rooms at The Star Hotel was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. There is evidence to suggest that at least eight rooms have been sold and that the owner is planning to relaunch the room sales operation once the hotel is re-opened. None of the room leases taken out by investors have been registered against the title at the Land Registry.
The trading operation of The Star Hotel Great Yarmouth is unaffected. In other words, if any guest wants to stay there they can. It does not matter to a guest who owns the room because all rooms are managed by the hotel management company.
This article is solely to warn any potential investor who receives a promotion aimed at enticing them to invest in a room at this hotel to think again. Take independent legal advice. Do not use the law firm recommended by the company.
Our advice in every hotel room scheme is – Book a hotel room. DON’T BUY A HOTEL ROOM.
We are interested in any investments in which Gordon Brown Law Firm was involved. The firm has been associated with a number of collapsed investments and, although now in liquidation, we believe there may be recovery options available to its clients. We’re happy to take a look at any paperwork. Please use the form on our Contact Page [LINK] if you were an investor with Gordon Brown Law Firm.
St Camillus Legal Action
We recently advised the St Camillus Sales Agent Group (“SCSAG”), which is masquerading under the title of ‘St Camillus Investor Group’, of a legal action established by a UK solicitor. The legal action is focused on the lawyers who represented investors, but it also extends to any other party which may have liability to compensate investors. This includes, amongst others, the sales agents who sold the hotel rooms to investors. Many investors feel the sales agents bear some responsibility for their losses.
We asked the SCSAG to communicate news of the legal action to the investors in its group. They chose not to respond. In other words, they withheld information from the very investors they claim to be representing.
It’s an understandable reaction because they must protect the sales agents. They have to find a way to prevent investors from taking any action against sales agents because it is they who provide SCSAG with investor email addresses. Their solicitor, who claims to be on the side of the investors, is working with the sales agents and has been for some time. That’s quite a conflict of interest considering investors may have a claim against those sales agents.
In our previous article on St Camillus [LINK] we described how the solicitor and his sales agent partner were asking for £580 from investors without giving any indication of what the money was for or who it would go to. Fortunately, due to our article, they have been forced to drop that scheme, but we believe investors will be asked for a payment of some kind fairly soon.
There’s another potential conflict of interest for the lawyer/sales agent team which is being ignored. Investors generally fall into two camps. Those who want to commit more money to the investment in some way e.g through coming together to buy the assets in administration, and those who do not want to commit any more money and would like to get the highest amount back from the administration. On the one hand we have a group that wants to force down the price they pay for the asset and on the other there is a group that wants to achieve the highest possible price for the asset because that should result in a greater distribution for them. This solicitor/sales agent team want to buy the assets, but they seem to want non-buying investors to contribute towards establishing a structure with the administrator which could actually work against the interests of the non-buying investors. It’s odd, unnecessarily complex and doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than generating fees.
In administration, if you want to buy the asset you make an offer. If it is acceptable you pay the money. You can then sort out any deal you like with leaseholders. It’s true to say that the majority of St Camillus investors who have contacted us are those who don’t want to pay any more money and are concerned they will lose out to those who are trying to push the price down.
We have decided to publish an overview of the legal action below so that investors can ask the SCSAG why they weren’t told about it. This is the most comprehensive legal action we have ever been involved in because we feel St Camillus investors are in the same position as Qualiacare investors i.e they are being manipulated. Unfortunately we came to Qualiacare too late to be able to warn investors.
We can’t go into detail on the legal proposal because that is for the solicitor to present to investors, but we can list the key points.
1. It is a large law firm running the action and the solicitor is very experienced in professional negligence claims, including hotel room scams. He has experience in prosecuting room scams and this includes to trial. It is quite rare to find a solicitor who has taken a room scam into the courtroom (and won). The action is ready to start with everything in place.
2. The action is fully-funded i.e investors do not have to make any upfront contribution. The fee will be payable at the end of the case if it is successful.
3. The action is not a “we expect the claim to settle out of court” scenario. That would be nice for all investors if it happens that way, but it is best to have everything in place for a full-on court process just in case the opponents opt to take the case to court. We’ve seen investors signing up to a limited action service only to find that the opponent will not settle out of court. At that point investors are asked to put their hands in their pockets. This action is fully-funded from start to finish and includes ATE insurance. The solicitor has covered the requirement for court action all the way through to appeals if necessary.
4. The team is already involved in large claims against two of the main law firms who represented investors in the sale of the hotel rooms. Those firms are Gordon Brown Law Firm and Maxwell Alves. That makes life much easier.
5. The funding arrangement also includes ongoing costs related to investigating the roles played by third parties e.g sales agents, providers of professional services etc, with the aim of identifying additional recovery actions which can be added to the existing legal actions. This is a valuable feature which it is hoped will lead to greater recoveries for investors.
6. The arrangement includes FREE legal advice to the solicitor’s clients on the administration process and any proposals which are brought forward that affect the clients.
7. It also includes FREE legal advice to the solicitor’s clients on their leasehold position, how to protect it and how to get the best outcome when a buyer appears on the scene. This benefits investors who are concerned that the sales agent’s solicitor may not be acting in the best interests of non-buyers.
8. In effect, the funding proposal removes the need for any participating investor to have to pay the solicitor/sales agent team for any service related to both the insolvency and their leases.
If anyone would like more information they can contact us via our Contact Page.
If any investor has instructed the solicitor/sales agent team and decides not to use them any longer they can de-instruct them by sending an email advising the solicitor that his services are no longer required. They can ask him to return any money held on account if they have made any payment.
It is always wise to be wary of any investor group which bars investors from joining the group on the grounds that they ask too many questions. Also, any investor group which does not pass on information to group members should be regarded with suspicion. It suggests it has its own agenda which may include diverting attention away from parties which could be prosecuted .
St Camillus legal action.
Money mule accounts are bank accounts which the owners allow to be used to collect money obtained by deception. We are contacted all the time by people who have been tricked into paying into a money mule account. Money mules are always associated with follow-on-frauds. These are scams targeting investors who have already fallen victim to a scam and who are now receiving unsolicited emails and phone calls promising them that the money can be recovered.
Occasionally, money mule accounts are used in the original scam but this is rare. More often than not the original scammers like to present a veneer of respectability so they will use a dodgy company to receive the money into what they describe as “an escrow account”. The reason is the same – they are putting a middle man in place so that the ultimate recipient(s) of the money are invisible to investors. One of those dodgy escrow companies is Jade State Wealth.
Last week we were notified of another money mule account which is being used in a follow-on-fraud. In this case the FOF was aimed at victims of the Texmoore scam. The account details are:
VDM LtdSort code: 60-83-71Account Number: 50373423
Shepherd Cox Brief Update.
We have been asked to update investors on the status of the bankruptcy petitions / IVA proposals of the former Shepherd Cox directors.
The first set of IVA Proposals for both directors were withdrawn and as yet no revised IVA Proposals have been presented to creditors. The bankruptcy petition against Nicholas Carlile was adjourned in February and the next hearing is now scheduled for May. The bankruptcy petition against Lee Bramzell was in court this week. It has also been adjourned with the next hearing scheduled for June.
St Camillus Investors.
One of the sales agents who sold rooms in a number of hotels and care homes to investors is now contacting investors in the St Camillus hotels. He claims to own rooms in a number of properties and it is quite possible that he does. One of the questions that needs to be answered is whether he actually paid any money for those rooms or whether he accepted rooms in lieu of commission payments. We quite often see sales agents accepting rooms in lieu of payment as a means of encouraging them to sell more rooms and avoid personal tax. Sales agents in scam room sale operations are typically paid between 10% – 15% commission which is more than four times the levels charged by mainstream estate agents.
Some of the St Camillus investors have forwarded unsolicited emails they received which originated from this salesman. The email was asking investors to pay £580 for Phase 1 of his proposed action. It wasn’t clear who the money would be paid to or even what it was actually for because there is no need for a solicitor to be involved at this stage. Creditors can register their own voting preference on the Proof Of Debt form. People don’t pay someone to go and cast their vote on polling day and they don’t need to pay a lawyer to do it in an administration case.
The email describes Phase 1 as being “Appoint Kevin [Kevin Brown of ELS Advisory Ltd] to be liquidator with the aim of transferring the freehold into a trust for the benefit of the leaseholders subject to paying off any trade creditors and HMRC. If this amount is reasonable and can be shared amongst investors, then we can pass on to Phase 2. To do so Kevin will need to find out who the creditors are and how much they are owed.” It’s pretty obvious that Kevin will need to do that. What isn’t obvious is why investors have to commit to paying £580 before the existing administrator publishes the full creditor list which it has to do on or before 9th March. Why are investors being rushed into paying money again like they were in Qualiacare ? According to the email Kevin had been on a Zoom meeting with investors explaining the proposal.
This strategy of claiming to investors that insolvency practitioners will transfer freeholds into a trust for NIL value has been tried by this team before. So far it has failed in all of the cases that the saleman’s team has been involved in.
What we do not understand is why the salesman, his law firm partner and his insolvency partner did not tell the St Camillus investors that for the first hotel which went into administration in January, the value of the claims of the ‘non-investor’ creditors was more than £500,000 and there are 25 investors in that hotel. We don’t see those 25 investors stumping up £20k each to pay off non-investor creditors when £500k is far more than the hotel is actually worth. Hopefully none of the St Camillus investors have fallen for this ‘you must pay now’ demand and they have held on to their money.
Today we received notification that a second St Camillus hotel in administration has reported that non-investor creditors amount to more than £275,000. None of the St Camillus investors are going to pay that kind of sum to buy out other creditors for what is a very poor hotel. It is one of the worst hotels we have ever seen in these hotel room scams. It is a terraced property in a back-street of Blackpool, the rooms are tiny and the furniture (what there is of it) is from the 1970s. The strategy outlined by the sales agent’s team has fallen apart in the space of just two days.
The email goes on. After Phase 1 they would move onto Phase 2 which was “to carry out the transfer of freeholds and if it is discovered that the directors have committed any criminal offence go after all their assets and pay to us creditors any recoveries“. That’s a case of telling investors what they want to hear to get their £580. The proposal does not mention who will fund the criminal prosecution. Private criminal proceedings are horrendously expensive and are not going to be undertaken by administrators. It would have to be funded by investors and they won’t do it.
The initial payment for Phase 2 was estimated at the same level or double that of Phase 1. There is no way that Phase 2 funds would come anywhere near covering the cost of a private criminal prosecution. This team used exactly the same approach in the Qualiacare case. We have already had correspondence with the law firm over the Qualiacare situation. What bothers us is that investors are being told what they want to hear and that this is being used to get them to pay money over without any idea of how they could possibly realistically benefit and achieve a better outcome.
The Qualiacare companies are subject to restrictions imposed by The Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) which intervened to protect investors. This sales agent and his solicitor have taken almost £60,000 from Qualiacare investors and it is questionable what benefit those investors may actually get for their money. The FCA is the guardian in that case. It will not allow investor positions to be eroded because the FCA is in place to protect investors.
The FCA intervention in Qualiacare occurred because they allege that the Qualiacare investments were unregulated collective investment schemes. We would argue that the St Camillus hotel room schemes are also unregulated collective investment schemes (“UCIS”). UCIS are covered under S235 of FSMA 2000 [LINK].
Under the regulations it is unlawful for any party to be involved in the formation, promotion, sale or operation of a UCIS and they can be prosecuted to compensate investors for their losses. This notice from the FCA website confirms that a range of different parties can be included in a prosecution [LINK]. This prosecution included the founders, consultants, a solicitor and a sales agent company called Regency Capital Ltd. Sales agents can be held liable to compensate investors. That is a very important fact that has not been mentioned by the law firm to its clients in both St Camillus and Qualiacare.
In view of this, and the fact that the FCA allege that the Qualiacare investments were a UCIS, this raises an interesting point in respect of whether the law firm should have declared a conflict of interest. Did it advise investor clients that the introducer of investors to the law firm was both its client and a sales agent, and that as the FCA had claimed the investment was a UCIS this meant that their introducer client could be a potential source of compensation for its investor clients ? We doubt that it did because this sales agent has been bringing in a lot of business for the law firm. An estimated 230 clients in Qualiacare alone. Why has the law firm not advised its investor clients of how the FCA’s allegations might enable them to benefit from a UCIS prosecution and who the potential targets could be ? What’s more, some of the “investor co-ordinators” in the law firms’ structure are also both clients and sales agents, but they are made to look like genuine investors. They are also potential sources of compensation under a UCIS claim. This is, in our view, an important material consideration which should have been declared to the law firms’ investor clients. We have asked the law firm to comment on this situation and to inform their clients immediately. We believe its clients should be asking for a full refund and if they don’t get it they should go online and report the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The same is likely to be true of the St Camillus investment and we have a solicitor looking into it.
We also questioned the law firm over the use of ordinary investors as “investor co-ordinators” and sending out invitations to other investors they do not know. This is a very worrying development because it is in essence a sales agent and solicitor using members of the public to recruit business for them.
Unsolicited letters were sent to investors from these “co-ordinators” inviting those investors, who were unknown to them at the time, to join this law firms’ legal action. The investor co-ordinators were effectively being used as introducers to the law firm. This kind of activity is covered under the claims management regulations [LINK]. We have asked the law firm if their actions may have exposed ordinary people to a potential FCA investigation. If there is any likelihood of that being the case we advised them that they must immediately inform those investors who may be affected. It is clear to us that the main sales agent is certainly acting as an introducer to the law firm and is captured under these regulations, but ordinary members of the public should never have been drawn into being used in such a way. If they are captured under the CMC regulations it was extremely irresponsible and indefensible of the law firm and its agent to have put them in that position.
We believe there may be a pattern emerging which is where a sales agent takes control of investor actions using a friendly law firm. The law firm chooses not to inform its clients of what is most likely their best recovery option i.e an action against the parties involved in a UCIS investment.
There is a simple solution for investors which does not involve them paying into the sales agent and lawyer scheme. It is:
1. Make an offer to the administrator to buy the freehold.
2. Bring investors together to join in the ownership.
That’s all that has to be done. There’s no need for investors to buy out trade creditors or start a series of payments to a law firm. There’s no reason why an offer would not be accepted and it is likely to be a much cheaper option for investors.
Investors are being told by the sales agent that lots of investors have signed up with the law firm. That is the sales agent reverting to his standard sales technique of frightening investors into believing that if they don’t sign up then they will miss out. It’s what all salesmen do and investors should not be fooled by it.
To view our previous article on Qualiacare please click here [LINK].
Any investor who has received an approach by the sales agent and his law firm partner, whether it was in connection with St Camillus, Qualiacare, Carlauren or NPD, should report it to the Supervision Hub of the UK’s Financial Conduct [LINK] to seek reassurance that the approach was lawful.
To view a more recent update on the St Camillus case please click here [LINK].
Harvard Capital Scam.
A company calling itself Harvard Capital is perpetrating a follow-on-fraud against investors who have lost money to scams. It is clear that Harvard Capital has obtained a list of investors from one or more of the sales agent companies which sell unregulated investments and is cold-calling investors pretending to be from The Insolvency Service. This is quite a common scam which we come across on a regular basis.
The story they give investors is that the Insolvency Service has passed the case to Harvard Capital and the investor will be hearing from Harvard Capital very soon. Sure enough, a few hours later the investor receives an email from Harvard Capital with a number of attachments. See below:
Subject: HARVARD CAPITAL
Please find attached documentation pertaining to the transposition of your investment portfolio including an invoice for the UCIS fee due, alongside our terms and conditions. Your allocated corporate adviser will be in touch in order to finalise your account.
The attachments include a fake letter claiming to be from the Insolvency Service, a Cover Letter and a contract. They can be viewed below.
There is a genuine company called Harvard Capital Ltd, but they will not be involved in this scam. The scammers have cloned their details.
You may have noted in the fake Insolvency Service letter that Harvard Capital is not mentioned. The company which is mentioned is Decca Capital. This is because in their haste to launch the Harvard Capital scam they used one of their previous Insolvency Service follow-on-fraud letters and forgot to change the details. That may be obvious to a lot of people, but there will be some investors who do not spot this and are persuaded by the unsolicited telephone calls that the scam is genuine. If you have fallen victim to a fake Insolvency Service scam report it to the Police.