Andrew A. Duffy, Times Colonist
Monday, November 21, 2005
For the first time in six months, there
is guarded optimism creeping into the camp of Victoria investors who say
former investment adviser Ian Thow owes them millions.
A group of about 20 creditors met with senior representatives from
Berkshire Group's head office Sunday morning to begin what the creditors
hope is a process to determine Berkshire's responsibility in what has
become a financial mess.
Since he left Berkshire May 31, Thow has been under fire from former
clients and other investors who say he bilked them of millions of
dollars in a variety of investment schemes
The B.C. Securities Commission and the RCMP's Integrated Market
Enforcement Team are investigating.
Creditor spokeswoman Andrea Racicot said there is finally a sense that
something is getting done.
"I am optimistic that there will be some resolution; as to what that may
be, I don't know," she said. "They seem genuine in their desire to get
to the bottom of this and to help us.
"(They) have indicated they do want to investigate everyone's individual
case. They aren't making any commitments as to what's going to happen as
a result, but they are investigating it."
The group met Alison Fletcher, Berkshire Investment Group's
vice-president of compliance, and Julie Clarke, Berkshire Securities'
senior counsel, at the Hotel Grand Pacific for just over an hour.
Further meetings are planned over the next two days.
Racicot said there is a sense that Berkshire understands the impact Thow
has had on the community.
"That was brought up again (Sunday), just how many of the people there
are, that they've been drained, lost houses; life savings are gone or
they are in jeopardy of losing homes," she said. "It was also impressed
on them that time is of the essence, that this needs to be resolved in a
timely manner." Neither Fletcher nor Clarke could be reached. However,
the creditors say Berkshire has committed to issuing an interim report
on the situation by December 2.
Geoffrey Charlton, the executive vice-president of the Berkshire
Investment Group, did send an e-mail to the Times Colonist confirming
the company's senior investigative team would meet clients.
"As Michael Lee-Chin (founder and chairman of AIC Ltd., corporate parent
of the Berkshire Group of Companies) told people when he was in Victoria
last week, Berkshire is very serious about clearing the air around the
Thow case," he wrote. "At the same time, we want our clients to know
that our commitment to them and our professionalism in handing their
portfolios remain as our paramount priority."
Racicot suggested coming to some kind of resolution had to be in
Berkshire's best interests.
"This can't be doing much for their business here or morale of the
dealers and advisers who are still working for them in Victoria," she
said. "It has to be taking a toll on them ... to me it makes good
business sense for them to arrive at a resolution."