Sunday, October 26, 2008

500 protest lost savings

Oct 25, 2008

The rally at Speaker's Corner, the third so far, was led by former NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian.

By Gracia Chiang

WELL-EDUCATED, English-speaking investors flocked to Speakers' Corner on Saturday to make their frustrations heard.

For the third week in a row, about 500 investors gathered in Hong Lim Park eager to find out how they can seek redress for Lehman-linked financial products they claim were mis-sold to them.

Organised by former chief executive officer of insurer NTUC Income Tan Kin Lian, the rally was intended for those who had sunk their money into such products to band together and exchange suggestions.

Unlike the previous two Saturday rallies which saw mostly Mandarin-speaking and older investors, many who showed up on Saturday evening were those who did not fall into the 'vulnerable' group which financial institutions have said they would focus on when compensating investors.

Following calls from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for priority to be given to the 'highly vulnerable' investors, including the elderly, retired and less educated, DBS Bank, Maybank and Hong Leong Finance said last week that they would be fast-tracking such cases.

Those who don't fall into this group are now complaining of being sidelined.

At the rally on Saturday, Mr Tan and 30 other volunteers handed out 1,000 forms for investors to fill in. They are asked to fill in information like whether they were led to believe there was a guarantee on their investment.

He said the forms would make it easier for them to lodge formal claims with their financial institution.

He is also starting a fourth petition, this time urging MAS to find a collective solution if mis-selling is found instead of having financial institutions compensate investors on a case-by-case basis.

'It's taking so long and there are so many people who are distrustful of the process. They say, 'If I say the wrong thing, I'll get less,'' said Mr Tan, referring to institutions holding individual evaluations with clients.

He also encouraged investors to band together and request for an open forum with the institution that sold them the product.

[Comment: You can't help but wonder whose fault is it. The Bank for selling the product, the "relationship manager" for pushing the product, the "investors" for buying the product. The sad truth is that no one is to be blamed (except for the devious minds that came up with products). The banks were selling the products because they believed it was a solid product (and paid well). The relationship managers sold the products because they got a good deal and the banks said it was a solid product. And the investors bought because they believed what they were told about the product. If there was mis-selling, it was because of the misunderstanding as to the nature of the product, and to its inherent risks. Can the banks reimburse these investors for their loss? I guess it depends on what was their sales pitch to the investors. If the banks had failed to understand the products they were selling, then they have a responsibility to their customers.]

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