Friday, July 13, 2012

Farepak: will the insolvency practitioner gravy train ever stop?


Over 100,000 victims of the Farepak Christmas club, which collapsed in 2006, will now receive almost 50 pence in the pound, primarily thanks to a charitable fund (17.5 pence) and a new £8m ex gratia payment from LloydsTSB (19 pence).

The work of the insolvency practitioners, BDO LLP, netted 13 pence in the pound yet their fees and outlays cost 19 pence in the pound; £8.2m - in other words they charged 60 pence to recover 40 pence.

The OFT's market study into this industry uncovered market failure in 2010. Big secured creditors, like banks, were able to exert some control over corporate insolvency practitioners (IP) fees and outlays. Yet, the OFT found in 40% of cases where unsecured small creditors were involved there was little or no oversight of IP fees and charges.

GLC's Mike Dailly speaks to BBC Radio 4's Money Box on the apparent licence that IPs have to print money, with little or no effective regulation from the UK Insolvency Service. In GLC's experience a similar problem exists in relation to IP fees and charges in the personal insolvency market.

GLC would like to see the OFT's recommendations - including an independent complaints body with real legal teeth to review IP fees and charges, and the power to impose fines - implemented.

The Insolvency Service consultation on these issue last year produced major industry opposition for any real change. Hardly surprising, when the present system represents the lightest touch of regulation for one of the most expensive and well paid industries in the world. An industry that frequently costs considerably more than it generates in recovered income.

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