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Thow victims try to forget the experience
After years of fighting to recover their money, some are totally fed up

Andrew A. Duffy

Saturday, October 06, 2007

After two years of fighting, pleading and, more often than not, waiting, some of the victims of disgraced financial adviser Ian Thow are fed up with the entire affair and are trying hard to put it behind them.

Their fatigue is understandable considering they've been through the roller coaster of hearings, lawsuits, bankruptcy proceedings, investigative interviews and plenty of media scrutiny since Thow, a senior vice-president with Berkshire Investment Group, left the country in the summer of 2005.

Thow took off amid allegations he used his clients' money to fuel his lavish lifestyle.

He set up home in Seattle after filing for bankruptcy and left clients and creditors who claimed he owed them in excess of $32 million.

So after two years of fighting to get back some of their lost savings, some former clients have had enough.

"I'm sick of it, I just want it all to be done," said former client Andrea Racicot. "It's been over two years now, let's get on, I find every time something happens it brings it all up again and I'd just as soon move on."

But the work may be about to pay off as this month there is expected to be some action on the Thow file.

The B.C. Securities Commission is expected to release is decision regarding Thow's activities -- the commission was to have released it Oct. 9 but has delayed it indefinitely -- the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada will hold a one-day settlement hearing for Berkshire on Oct. 22 and there are rumours the RCMP's Integrated Market Enforcement Team are ready to approach the Crown with their recommendations after a lengthy criminal investigation.

The rumours IMET were ready to approach the Crown about laying charges could not be substantiated yesterday as the RCMP would only say they do not comment on ongoing investigations.

But still there were some former Thow clients happy to finally see some action.

"It's a great start, it's all starting to come out now," said former client Brad Goodwin.

"But I never let myself feel any kind of sense of relief because you never know what's around the corner."

Thow's former clients are not expecting much of a surprise when the BCSC finally does release its decision, though they do expect the commission to throw the maximum penalty at Thow.

He is facing a $250,000 fine, the maximum allowed in 2005 when the investigation started, and a lifetime ban from selling securities in B.C.

"I don't care about the (fines and ban) but it's another thing to put into the book to throw against Thow and Berkshire," said Goodwin, noting he is more interested in seeing what the RCMP are going to do and if Thow will be extradited to face a trial.

Ron Black, another of the victims, said he was happy to see things moving, but asked what good it does for Thow's former clients?

"What's really going to be accomplished from this, they may be found guilty but what does that do for the people who have lost all their money," he said, referring to the BCSC's imminent ruling on Thow and the MFDA's settlement hearing with Berkshire.

The MFDA's hearing, which comes after a two-year investigation into Berkshire's role in the Thow affair, will provide little if any comfort for Thow's former clients as any settlement will likely involve Berkshire agreeing to improve its oversight rules and perhaps paying a fine to the MFDA.

Neither Julie Clarke, Berkshire's in-house legal counsel, nor Shaun Devlin vice-president of enforcement for the MFDA, would discuss details of the proposed settlement which will be ruled on at the hearing.

"We have reached a settlement agreement with the MFDA but that is subject to approval by the panel, other than that there's little we can say at this point," said Clarke.

If the agreement is approved it will be made public.



Ian Thow takes flight