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Moneylife » Life » Public Interest » HSBC loots Suchitra Krishnamoorthi after big promises of 24% returns

HSBC loots Suchitra Krishnamoorthi after big promises of 24% returns

Moneylife Digital Team | 13/04/2012 05:29 PM | 

This can happen to you—bank customers beware. Lack of financial literacy can cost you big time as reputed banks target the gullible with money to spare. PMS, insurance, loans are pushed by relationship managers to make a killing, at your cost!

HSBC Bank took Ms Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, a well-known singer and actor, for a ride over a five year period by promising an extravagant assured return of 24% from mutual funds as well as insurance. Each time the customer complained about losses in her account, the standard reply was that the relationship manager has been fired and that the bank will make up for the losses with judicious investments. Needless to say, the losses were never made good. The one-way road for the customer was downhill. If a well-known celebrity could be cheated with such impunity, it is surely happening routinely with others.

It is a case of systematic looting and exploitation of emotionally vulnerable who had got Rs3.6 crore as part of a settlement in September 2006. The money was supposed to be the means of livelihood for herself and for her daughter. The bank used confidential information about the hefty deposit in her savings account and began to market its toxic services to her. Since bankers are seen as trustworthy, she believed that her relationship manager was advising her correctly.

The modus operandi for HSBC in this case has been a combination of toxic churning of the portfolio management system (2% entry load on every purchase made by it on behalf of client), insurance products promising 24% returns, insisting her on taking a loan instead of withdrawing funds without even disclosing that the client was entitled for a smart loan.

The end result after five years was Rs83 lakh—direct loss from investment, Rs29 lakh in commission to HSBC, Rs8 lakh (50% of investment) lost from an insurance policy, Rs10 lakh (again, 50% of investment) valuation decline in insurance policy still in force, Rs4.5 lakh tax paid on redemption of short-term mutual funds (including Rs1.85 lakh penalty to the Income Tax department due to non-disclosure of gain by HSBC to the client) and Rs58 lakh interest on home loan earned by the bank.

When Suchitra wished to surrender her insurance policies, HSBC refused to act for her by contending that they no longer had any tie-up with Tata AIG and that it was not their business to get client’s money back that they had recommended in the first place.

Apart from the losses, the so-called customer service was pathetic after the relationship started getting sour. The bank was appallingly evasive and non cooperative even for basic requests such as furnishing of documents or revoking power of attorney for the investment portfolio. It took the bank four months and repeated requests to furnish inchoate standard forms that Suchitra had signed at the time of appointing HSBC as her portfolio manager. Moreover, the documentation was incomplete.  

According to Suchitra, “It took my chartered accountant six months to authenticate the figures of losses—as not only was the HSBC team adept at covering its paper trail. They also very conveniently refused/evaded furnishing me the documents to which I am legally entitled for over a year—giving me one silly excuse after another like mismatch of signature/officers being on leave, etc.”

She adds, “While I was warned that the legal system in India is such that the matter will drag on forever probably causing me further expenditure and loss of peace of mind and reputation, I was determined to see this through. It is my moral responsibility and a warning to other vulnerable targets—small investors like me should not get conned by aggressive MBA's in suits who are preying on their customers like sharks in the big bad ocean. All the while getting richer and richer while making us small gold fish go bust.”

Last year Moneylife Foundation had conducted a seminar with Ravi Subramanian, banker and author of three well-known books like “If God Was a Banker”, “I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari” and “Devil in Pinstripes”. According to him, “Banks and relationship managers often indulge in cross-selling to earn more revenues and therefore, the customer has to be more careful while dealing with them. Bankers become ‘bhayankar’ when they fail to deliver what they have promised and try to hard-sell products on which they earn more money to the gullible customers. A customer can protect himself from falling into the hands of mercenary bankers by being alert, vigilant and at the same time doing due diligence.”


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120 Comments
Dr.Abhik De

Dr.Abhik De 3 weeks ago

Moneylife » Personal Finance » Banking » When Banks Cheat Customers
When Banks Cheat Customers

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• + COMMENT
SUCHETA DALAL | 23/06/2015 02:10 PM |
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Stanchart robs a doctor in Kolkata with churning and forgery. Will RBI act?

Dr Abhik De, a highly qualified doctor in Kolkata, had an account with Standard Chartered Bank. Since 2005, the Bank also managed his mutual fund investment which was Rs1.56 crore in 15 schemes. In a 19-month period after May 2008, Stanchart switched and churned his portfolio over 200 times causing a massive loss of Rs68.28 lakh. In so doing, the Bank often forged signatures on transaction slips. At least 50 transactions in July-August 2009, all loss-making, were a give-away since he was out of the country. Dr De confirmed the forgery by writing to each mutual fund and seeking photocopies of transaction slips. Dr De says that some of the forged signatures were even attested by Stanchart officials. When he complained, the Bank initially dismissed his complaint as false and frivolous.

A reckless churning of mutual funds to earn commissions as well as entry- and exit-loads can only happen when there is a nexus between ‘wealth managers’ and the fund managers. Dr De complained to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) but got nowhere. Over the past four years, he has slowly gathered enough evidence to file a police complaint.

Dr De describes the attitude of regulators succinctly and colourfully. He says, “If a person is murdered with an unlicensed revolver, the judge does not ask for the source of the weapon. He conducts a murder trial.” Our regulators have all been focused on trivial technicalities rather than justice even when violation of their own regulations is very clear.

Stanchart’s actions are a direct violation of SEBI’s prohibition of fraudulent and unfair trading practices regulations, as well as the code of conduct for mutual fund intermediaries. Readers would recall that Moneylife’s relentless pressure ensured SEBI action against HSBC in a similar case of churning involving singer-actress Suchitra Krishnamoorthi. The actress was eventually paid Rs1.3 crore by HSBC as a settlement. But SEBI has done nothing to help Abhik De.

Finally, the Kolkata police registered a first information report (FIR) based on his complaint in 2014. It caused Stanchart to wake up at long last. The Bank sacked its relationship manager and unilaterally transferred Rs35 lakh into Dr De’s account (November 2014) calling it a “full and final satisfaction of all claims, demands and contentions raised by you.” Adding insult to injury, it called this a “goodwill gesture to maintain cordial relations” with its victim. Obviously, Dr De is in no mood to accept or give up the battle.

The question is why did RBI fail to redress the complaint? An ordinary consumer who cannot repay a small loan or defaults on credit card is declared a defaulter and his financial life is crippled. But a bank decimating a person’s savings through mis-selling faces no action. The collective clout of banks has swung the pendulum of justice far against the ordinary consumer. This cannot go on. RBI’s consumer charter, issued in 2014, is supposed to protect people from such brazen mis-selling. RBI must make an example of Dr De’s case. Awarding exemplary punishment will show that it is serious about fair treatment of consumers.

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Dr.Abhik De

Dr.Abhik De 3 weeks ago

The regulator show caused HSBC for violating SEBI code:
MFD/CIR/ 06/210/2002
June 26, 2002
All Mutual Funds Registered with SEBI
Unit Trust of India
Association of Mutual Funds in India.
, AMFI has now prescribed a code of conduct for the mutual funds intermediaries i.e. agents and distributors, a copy of which is enclosed. It is advised that all distributors and agents of mutual funds units shall follow the code of conduct strictly. As advised in the aforesaid circular dated September 25, 2001, the mutual funds shall monitor the activities of their agents/distributors to ensure that they do not indulge in any kind of malpractice or unethical practice while selling/marketing mutual funds units. If any intermediary does not comply with the code of conduct, the mutual fund shall report it to AMFI and SEBI. No mutual fund shall deal with those intermediaries who do not follow code of conduct..
9. Avoid commission driven malpractices such as:
(a) recommending inappropriate products solely because the
intermediary is getting higher commissions therefrom.
(b) encouraging over transacting and churning of mutual fund investments to earn higher commissions, even if they mean higher transaction costs and tax for investors.
Same violated by StanChart/vide moneylife 23.06.15,article.Wonder why regulator non cooperative to take penal action against S.C.B.for violating the same,and in either case no action against AMCs,who connivined with the intermediaries.Signatures forged/kyc all over the places,as self attestation by s.c.b.R.M.Wonder when SEBI/R.B.I. ,will be in action.Even violated banking code.

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Dr.Abhik De

Dr.Abhik De 3 weeks ago

Who will win?StanChart or HSBC when in looting investors/plz.compare with your article of 23rd June.Regulator biased.

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ABHIK DE

ABHIK DE 1 year ago

Xerox copy of the same complaints happened with our funds,misselling/churning of mutual funds/ulips/tampered medicals/unauthorised trnxns/kyc violation/violation of financial underwriting/violation of SEBI/AMFI/IRDA guidelines.Hope regulators are watching.S.C.B./BALIC/16 Fund houses,connivined /resoted to above misdeeds.

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d p agarwal

d p agarwal 1 year ago

We have also been looted by HSBC. We are fighting with them . we need help and guidance.

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