The following is a letter sent to The Online Citizen by a group of minibonds investors.
Brokerages the weakest link in Minibonds Complaints Resolution
We are a group of frustrated Minibonds investors who bought Minibonds, Pinnacle Notes or Jubilee Notes from Brokerage Firms [not Banks] and have been given the runabout for the last 3 weeks.
Unlike banks that have made attempts to engage the investors in open dialogues; the top management of brokerages have already taken a firm stand that they are only the "Order Executor" and that their staff are forbidden to give financial advice to customers (i.e. absolved from their responsibilities in the sales advisory process). Under such circumstances how can there be any mis-selling? They are thus only paying lip-service to the complaint investigation process by going through the motion of recording customer complaint.
The authorities, the media and many others, are not aware of the situation faced by the investors who bought minibonds through brokerages. We attempt to enlighten using the following analogy, and we trust the authorities will act to ensure a fair and independent investigation and resolution.
A Layman's Guide to Minibonds sold by Brokerages – using an analogy.
A well-known drug manufacturer LB has developed a new painkiller MiniCure. It contains very complex components, potentially toxic blend, and has not been tested as safe for general consumption.
Pharmacy O saw potential of this drug for the local market. Its Product Specialist team assessed the drug and its risks, and recommended that MiniCure is suitable for direct distribution to the public (as opposed to a prescriptive drug)
In its marketing brochures, Pharmacy O highlighted that MiniCure is a solid cure for headache and is safe for long-term consumption (over 5 years). It used several large local institutions for product endorsement. It omitted LB is the manufacturer.
Pharmacy O aggressively marketed MiniCure. It prominently displayed marketing materials in its premises and other public places, and on newspapers. It sent bulk mailers and emails to its customer contacts.
Pharmacy O also distributed MiniCure through various sales channels. It organized road shows and seminars, jointly with manufacturer LB, the latter to answer technical questions.
Pharmacy O enlisted Doctors to promote MiniCure to their walk-in patients. Pharmacy O provided the Doctors with an "Introducer Script" which stated they do not give medical advice to patients. Some Doctors used this script, others mentioned it "in passing", while the rest did not disclose this to their trusting patients.
Within several months, consumers of MiniCure fell critically ill. On 6 Oct, 350 patients who have taken Batch J of MiniCure, all died a sudden death. There was no post-mortem done. There was little press coverage. The next-of-kin tried in vain to seek fair compensation from the distributors of this toxic drug.
Pharmacy O now claims that MiniCure is an Over-The-Counter drug and it holds no responsibility for giving medical and product advice to the customers.
Pharmacy O now points out to customers that they had signed a Master OTC Agreement (during point of sales, and as part of the pre-requisite membership application), which discharged Pharmacy O of any liabilities.
Pharmacy now says consumers should have read the warning in the product leaflet, that MiniCure may cause serious illness or even death. These leaflets are mostly found inside the box packaging, made available to consumers only after they have purchased and opened the packaging. Due to lack of quality control, many packaging did not even carry these warning leaflets.
Consumers turned to the National Health Authority for assistance in a fair and independent investigation. The National Health Authority subsequently mandated that compensation be given to vulnerable consumers who are above 62 years and below Primary school education. This forms the minority of consumers.
The consumers outside of the vulnerable category are advised to lodge a complaint against Pharmacy O. Pharmacy O would conduct an interview with the consumers and would determine an outcome. This despite the many confirmations received from experts and researchers in the medical faculty that MiniCure is indeed a toxic drug. Some consumers have received an outcome from Pharmacy O – they have been told to file their case against the Doctors.
The World Health Organization anticipates a global flu pandemic is impending. Consumers of MiniCure have extremely low immunity against the pandemic. Consumers look to the National Health Authority to intervene quickly before it turns into a national crisis.
From a group of Minibond investors who bought from Brokerages
[Many are of the "same (not different) kind of customers from a typical bank saver".]