Friday, April 22, 2016

Surviving a Complaint investigator interview

We have recently received a growing number of questions and complaints about the complaint resolution system itself. The investigator’s interview is a part of the analysis process. Interviews are voluntary but not participating could be harmful to your case. Readers increasingly report feeling uncomfortable with this stage of the process.

Here are a few cautionary tips we’ve received from lawyers and professional dispute resolvers, should you have occasion to interact with the MFDA/IIROC, a Firm’s complaint department/"ombudsman" or OBSI regarding an interview with an investigator:

Before the interview takes place the claimant must confirm that the interview is without prejudice. Thereafter and before the interview, the claimant must send an e-mail confirming the date and time of the interview and once again recording, in writing now, that the interview is without prejudice. Written confirmation of the without prejudice aspect, is of vital importance.

  • Avoid  participating in an interview without being prepped

  • Make a list of everything you want to say and make sure you say it whether you are asked about it or not.

  • Ensure you have your key documents and files with you.

  • Ask for a list of questions the investigator intends to ask so you are properly prepared. If they refuse, ask why. If you have an Intervenor (someone who’s familiar with the complaint process and willing to provide support), consult with them before participating in an interview.

  • Have a friend participate with you to take notes and act as a witness. Ask if you can record the interview.

  • Don't allow the investigator to put words in your mouth.-ask if conversation is being recorded. If so, ask for a copy of the recording.

  • Don't let them cross-examine you. Being a victim of financial assault is enough pain. After you have provided an honest response, it’s best to remain silent.

  • Don't think that they are your friend, and get lulled into a false sense of security –investor advocates have provided lots of evidence that the system is biased against you

  • Do not answer questions you do not believe are relevant to your case. Try to clarify why the question is being asked. Assume anything you say, can and will be used against you.

  • If you have provided documents or information to the investigator, ask if they have been provided to the Firm. If they have, you may have the right of reciprocity- obtaining internal documents the Firm has provided to the investigator.

  • You do not have to answer every question asked. If you don’t recall something, say so. If you want to check your files before responding, say you will get back to the investigator after you’ve checked the facts.

  • If inconvenient, impossible (e.g. hospitalized, infirm) or too expensive for you to travel (travel costs, lost time at work), ask for a conference call or a meeting location suitable to you. 

  • If you feel like your undergoing an interrogation, you feel your integrity is being challenged or the investigator is disrespectful, report this to senior management of the Firm.

  • If the Firm has been unable or unwilling provide you with personal documents [NOTE 1] ask the regulator or OBSI to assist you in obtaining them. These documents may be of great importance to you to help you make an informed decision as to whether to accept or reject any recommendation the Firm may make to you, with regard to a possible settlement of your complaint. Without them, you could be placed in a disadvantageous position.

  • Resist paying any fees for these documents. If you are forced to pay, ask the investigator to include these expenses in any Decision so you can be reimbursed if your complaint is validated.

  • Watch out for trick questions. For example in one case, the investigator asked if the complainant had taken any courses in investing. She said “Yes”. This was used against her in a subsequent trial. It turns out the course was in fact a 2-hour seminar on RRIF’s, eight years earlier. In another case, the  investigator was able to extract information about the growth in assessed  value of a complainant’s home  over time, thus increasing his Net Worth ; a figure that can be used ( or abused)  to demonstrate suitability.

NOTE 1:  These include but are not limited to your NAAF, KYC, transaction slips, client statements, copies of all KYC updates, any Investment Policy Statements, all agreements including margin, option and shorting Agreements, Powers of Attorney, discretionary and/or managed account Agreements, and annual renewals of discretionary accounts. Copies of all notes from the financial advisor or somebody else acting on his or her behalf, including entries in any diary or calendar relating to the claimants account in question. Recordings and/or notes of all telephone calls or conversations. Copies of all daily and monthly internal reviews carried out by the compliance department or other designated party relating to the financial advisors handling of the claimants account with particular emphasis to suitability and other issues, The dates and times when such internal reviews were carried out, and by whom. Records of any disciplinary action taken against the financial advisor, whilst at the current  Firm and whilst at any previous Firms. Copies of any and all correspondence, e-mails between the compliance department and the financial advisor, or any other e-mails sent by anyone else in the Firm with relation to the claimants account to anyone else. The investigator or the Firm may refuse to provide requested documents- take note of the refusal and the reason provided for the refusal.

We continue working with regulators and OBSI to make the interview process less intimidating and fairer and to accommodate the special needs of seniors and vulnerable clients.

Contact for a copy of the Investors Guide to Effective Complaints. It may save you a lot of time, trouble and money. 

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