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Thow investors see sliver of hope
Creditors seeking resolution from Berkshire group

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."



Ian Thow takes flight