Consumer Interest   Exclusive
HSBC agrees to compensate Suchitra Krishnamoorthy
Under pressure from the regulators, HSBC has settled and closed its five year old dispute with singer-actress Suchitra Krishnamoorthy. While the settlement does not permit her to reveal the amount, we learn that this case of gross mis-selling and customer abuse has been amicably closed. Moneylife Foundation has been relentlessly pursuing this case for over two years
 

On World Consumer Rights Day, customers, who have been cheated by banks and their relationship managers and are willing to wage war for justice have something to cheer. Well known Singer-actor-author Suchitra Krishnamoorthi has reason to celebrate Friday after the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) suddenly called her for a discussion and settled her case in less than 24 hours and handed over a cheque. Moneylife Foundation, which has relentlessly pursued this case with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) knows that HSBC officials were summoned by the banking regulator, which had also made its displeasure clear. This was in addition to the show cause notice served to HSBC last year by the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which covered the mis-selling and hefty churning of Ms Krishnamoorthi's portfolio causing a loss of just under Rs30 lakhs in fees and loads alone.


We understand that the amount that HSBC paid out may cover Ms Krishnamoorthi's entire loss, but thanks to the terms of the settlement agreement, we will never know whether it included interest and compensation for the harassment and mental stress over the past five years, when she found that the so-called expert wealth managers from the bank had misguided her on almost every investment -- a dubious smart loan for her home, unit linked insurance products and churning of mutual funds. Ms Krishnamoorthi had availed of help from Disha Financial Counselling, where R Gopalakrishnan had helped her crystallise her loss. This was then presented to the RBI as well. Moneylife had also helped crystallise the exact loss caused by the churning of her mutual fund portfolio.

 
Here is a narration of how the story unfolded over the past two years:
Moneylife published an expose' in April 2012 on how HSBC looted Ms Krishnamoorthi for over five years by promising an extravagant assured return of 24% from mutual funds as well as insurance.


Last year in November, market regulator SEBI sent a strongly-worded notice to HSBC asking the lender to explain why its acts in handling the portfolio of Ms Krishnamoorthi were not in violation of its regulations governing fraudulent and unfair trade practices and violation of the code of conduct governing mutual fund distributors.


Whenever she complained about losses in her account, the standard reply from HSBC Bank 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 modus operandi for HSBC in this case had 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 on her taking a loan instead of withdrawing funds without even disclosing that the client was entitled for a smart loan.


The officers of HSBC Bank also informed her that “portfolio management is one of the prime businesses of HSBC Bank other than banking” and assured her “a minimum of 24% pa return” on her investments. However, following her complaint to the officials of the bank, she had told Moneylife that HSBC Bank was claiming that they had not acted as portfolio managers but merely advised on the management of her wealth.


This also is a case of systematic looting and exploitation of emotionally vulnerable who had received 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 end result after five years was Rs83 lakh—direct loss from investment, about Rs28 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. Of this, only the interest component on the loans seems to have been seriously disputed by the bank.  

 

Moneylife reviewed Ms Krishnamoorthi’s mutual fund transactions and found massive malpractices by HSBC


• Her mutual fund portfolio was continuously churned resulting in high transaction costs in the form of entry loads and exit loads. While several transactions led to huge losses for her, HSBC was the gainer of commissions.


• Out of the 75 transactions made, nearly 60% of the transactions were in equity schemes kept for a period less than one year. Here investments were made in schemes like HSBC India Opportunity Fund and HSBC Mid-cap Equity Fund, both of which have been underperformers. Apart from these, majority of the investments were made in balanced schemes of HDFC Mutual Fund, ICICI Mutual Fund and Sundaram Mutual Fund.

 

• The worst part of the transactions came around the market peak in November 2007 where nearly Rs3 crore was invested across five schemes on a single day which included over Rs1.67 crore invested in three sector schemes—ICICI Prudential Infrastructure Fund, Sundaram CAPEX Opportunities and Reliance Diversified Power Sector. Nearly Rs50 lakh was invested in Sundaram CAPEX Opportunities which has a current corpus Rs200 crore.


• The investments from all sector schemes were withdrawn between June and August 2010 at a loss of nearly Rs40 lakh, almost half her initial investment. The schemes from ICICI Mutual Fund and Sundaram Mutual Fund went down by nearly 50%. The other schemes were also withdrawn at a value 15%-30% lower resulting in a total loss of Rs86 lakh. These schemes included JP Morgan India Equity Fund (a poorly-performing scheme) and IDFC Premier Equity Fund.


• Surprisingly, in the whole portfolio there was not a single debt scheme and just one liquid scheme— HSBC Cash Fund. Ironically, commissions paid on debt schemes and liquid schemes are much lower.


• Ms Krishnamoorthi says an entry load amounting to over Rs29 lakh was deducted from her investments. If the bank had opted to only invest her amount of Rs3.60 crore in performing equity schemes for the long term, without any further buying or selling, the entry load of 2% at that time would have worked out to just Rs7.20 lakh.  

 

When Ms Krishnamoorthi 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.


“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,” she told Moneylife.


Unfortunately, in several such cases, banks tend to get away scot-free because the consumer is conned into signing a number of documents based on misplaced trust in their bankers. For instance when Ms Krishnamoorthi took her issue up with the Banking Ombudsman, the bank replied stating that she had signed on all the letter of instructions (LoIs) to carry out the transactions in her account. The manner in which bank officials discharge their fiduciary duties was not even taken into account.


On 18 April 2013, Moneylife Foundation had presented a memorandum to RBI Governor (http://foundation.moneylife.in/?page_id=2000 ) on unchecked mis-selling by bank relationship managers. It says, “Banks’ relationship managers have been particularly brazen in recommending financial products to their customers while completely disregarding their financial situation. It is commonplace to hear of a senior citizen being conned into investing in a mutual fund, unit-linked insurance plan or a hybrid-derivative product on the promise of higher returns. In many cases, private bank executives go over to their homes and persuade them to break secure fixed deposits and invest the money in unit linked insurance products (ULIPs) with the false assurance that these are as safe as fixed deposits and offer a higher return and security.”


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    COMMENTS

    Anand Jain

    7 years ago

    We had an exact same problem from HSBC with exact same excuses. The relationship manager forged the client signatures and invested 11 lacs dubiously with Tata AIG. It took us a one and half year battle to get our money back. The relationship manager went scot free.

    REPLY

    rajivahuja

    In Reply to Anand Jain 7 years ago

    Why doesn't the bank do something. with the relationship manager.Or is it cahoots with him /her.

    rajivahuja

    7 years ago

    I have successfully unsubscribed from comments Please subscribe me again.

    TIHARwale

    7 years ago

    Welldone Moneylife.

    rajivahuja

    7 years ago

    Encouraged by Money Lfe's relentless pursuit that people cannot just scoot with people's money. I am strongly motivated to file a case on Karvy,Private Wealth & Kotak Old Mutual.Kotak not only mispelled a policy to be . Sold me a ULIP and told me it will fetch a returns of 8% in after 05 years. Tried selling me another ULIP after a month but I put my foot down that I was not going to invest into Kotak schemes any further.Moreover I did not think aULIP was going to give return of 8% in 5 years time particularly that ULIP.

    REPLY

    rajivahuja

    In Reply to rajivahuja 7 years ago

    Is any body willing to help me ?

    Hari

    In Reply to rajivahuja 7 years ago

    I am ready to help you.
    Mail me your problem.
    [email protected]

    Khubir

    7 years ago

    This is very common in Financial Institutions/Broking Industry. Lower Level Mgt are forced and pressurized by their Seniors for Unauthorised Trade, Selling Mutual Fund as well as share trading.
    I am into this field. I had a very bad experience working in Share Broking.
    No ethics.

    REPLY

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to Khubir 7 years ago

    sathyacumaran
    I request ML to take up my case and what ever the charges once its settled as i have valid points its the sebi and nse bse and broking house who had cheated if only ML writes to IIFL and reliance securities within seconds the matter would be settled and once its settled what ever the amount that ML demands would be paid thanks for the effort of Ml

    MDT

    In Reply to sathyacumaran 7 years ago

    Mr Kumar,
    Time and again, we are telling you to fight your own case. You call yourself a media person and expect another media to do the legwork and fight for you?
    We have already told you in 2011, to take up your issues with SEBI, BSE, NSE or whatever forum that suits you.
    AND for the LAST TIME, kindly understand we are a media publication and are not into doing deals or negotations on behalf of investor or anybody else.
    Please refrain from using such 'deal' language and "what ever the amount that ML demands would be paid" about and with Moneylife. You have already harassed us too much.

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to MDT 7 years ago

    sathya cumaran
    Thanks we can take the fight on our own and please donot take the milage that sathyacumaran contacted and we have advised as how to proceed hearafter please donot post the money;life alerts as we have decided to take up the case on our way and see that market get an crash both equity and commodity this would be culmunation point for all NGO organisation who are banking on Financial market we also know how to handle the case from our angel we can even post the facts about the indian capital market and stock markets in india from our channel and media thanks hear after we donot entertain ML or Madam Sucheta Dalal to interfere please desist from sending mails to this email id

    Milind Chitnis

    7 years ago

    Well this is really good news.

    But even better outcome would have been if somehow this could have been converted into "class action" and ALL transctions could have been scrutinized on the basis of some agreed upon parameters (like high churn ration in portfolio etc).

    REPLY

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Milind Chitnis 7 years ago

    Right. But who would do it? Who would pay for it? We have found that too few people who have lost moony have the staying power or willingness to fight, like Suchitra Krishnamoorthi did. She repeatedly met, called and wrote to all those who needed to be contacted. She didn't give up even when she was fed up. And she did the legwork herself.
    Most others want someone else to do their work, spend money for them and follow up!
    cheers

    Milind Chitnis

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 7 years ago


    Agree 100% with what you say.

    But hypothetically of one were to contemplate such a thing (class action on behlaf of all investors), do our rules as they are today permit it?

    Just asking.

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 7 years ago

    sathyacumaran
    thanks for your mail please fight for my case and once when the case is done in favour then what ever the compensation you demand i would pay upfront i would not be in position to pay please kindly take my case where i have solid proof of cheating if you want i could even give the hardcopy of my compliants

    sathyacumaran

    7 years ago

    sathyacumaran
    Madam sorry if it had hurt your feelings please take this appeal as earnest appeal and try to settle my issue if you could send my grievances from your letter head the matter could be solved please help through Disha foundation or ML help please consider me as your own brother and help leave alone the media and journalist feather of mine


    Mothit

    7 years ago

    This is really a great news. This is the second case on HSBC. The other case on HSBC Gilt Fund, HSBC has lost the case in the month of January 2014 and had to compensate the investors for the loss incurred on their change of investment pattern. Its not new to HSBC to treat their customers unfairly. Take the recent issue where bank account holders in UK were not permitted to withdraw in cash. There is callousness from HSBC side in the way they communicate and behave with their customers. And I do not expect them to change their attitude towards their customers.

    T S Harihar

    7 years ago

    Well if Suchitra Krishnamurthy was dumb enough to believe in 24% return, then she has only herself to blame. It looks less like an admission of guilt by HSBC and more an attempt to hush up the matter, considering the high profile nature of the client..

    REPLY

    Suiketu Shah

    In Reply to T S Harihar 7 years ago

    Disagree strongly.Wealth managers take advantage of "lack of knowledge of equities" of HNI clients in such cases.Which is why one needs to take a tough stance with wealth managers.

    I am 100% sure Suchitra Krishnamoorthy wl never in her lifetime make a mistkae in invesment even 1/100% of what she did with HSBC now.Best is to get educated yrself in equities in the right way and then you donot need so called "wealth management experts" who are basically swindlers unable to earn money ,specialise is deliberate wrong calls(like making you buy at high price operator driven stocks)and good mainly for people who want to convert black into white or vice versa.

    rajivahuja

    In Reply to Suiketu Shah 7 years ago

    I agree with Mr Shah.

    CHOON TSHERING LEPCHA

    7 years ago

    Moneylife great job..personally benefitted from your timely intervention when one of the health insurance company blocked the premium paid twice & refused to return the excess premium for well above one & a half month..thanks for helping me.

    PRABHAT

    7 years ago

    I HAVE MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH - BAJAJ ALLIANZ LIFE INSURANCE /SBI LIFE INSURANCE / RELIANCE LIFE INSURANCE /TPDDL /IGL / ELECTRONIC ITEM DEALERS ETC , IS THAT CONTINUOUS FOLLOW UP IS REQD TO GET THE RESULTS . EVEN APPROACH TO VARIOUS AGENCIES LIKE CONSUMER FORUM IS ALSO REQD . EVERY BODY TRIES TO MAKE FOOL THE CONSUMER .

    REPLY

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to PRABHAT 7 years ago

    sathyacumaran
    Even this Moneylife would champion the cause only media fame personality they are not interested in helping the fellow journalist and media personality because once they champion the cause of fame realted person their name would get popular and as such our cases we have seek only media and channel not from india from foreign platform in which case the indian adminsitration would be scanner view where the officials of these insitutions would be main culprit the rule makers are rule brakers in india which ML knows if they wish they could help us let us wait and see whether they take up our case in which case hats off to ML otherwise just like populastic scheme of political party this Foundation is also for name and fame would be published from our platform let us give some more thime and chance

    pushkar kulkarni

    In Reply to sathyacumaran 7 years ago

    dear sir ji

    why not have dharna/ protest AAP style?? get real, the media as you claim to be working for , should have some credibility /power?!

    doors should open for you with the media backup..

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to sathyacumaran 7 years ago

    Mr Satyacumaran
    Let me repeat for the 100th time, we do not see why we should take your case up. If you are a media house, as you claim, you should be able to fight your own battle. We fight for people who dont know how.
    Also, since you post comments on all our articles, you jolly well know how many people are helped.
    And finally, you may have forgotten that you were threatening and demanding that we take up your matter , so we decided not to.
    Not other magazine does the work we do. Even in the NGO, we do it on best effort basis and reserve the right to disallow membership.
    We came up with this rule, only when some people began to monopolise our very limited time and resources and worse, even after having helped them in 10 different cases, were arrogant enough to say it was not good enough!!

    Jerin Chacko

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 7 years ago

    Dear Madam, I have been helped by ML Foundation and Shri R Gopalakrishnan of Disha in a case where there was no money or investment involved. Rather a credit card company was sending me statements for an account operated by another person having the same name as mine. I am happy to say he took the pains to guide me over two 30 minute telephonic sessions, which helped me solve my problem.

    Mr Satyacumaran appears to have difficulty in communicating his problem because of language barrier, I hope he is able to reach an amicable solution.

    Sucheta Dalal

    In Reply to Jerin Chacko 7 years ago

    Exactly. Mr Satyacumaran can always take an appointment and come for counselling to Disha. He has never wanted to follow any process other than posting relentless comments on our articles. Our numbers and email ID are published. We dont say NO to anyone for Disha Counselling, or any of the helplines. The question is, is he even a member of Moneylife Foundation (FREE membership) . Has he approached Disha? There is no language barrier -- he communicates perfectly by himself and through some colleagues. He tried threatening us to take up his case to avoid bad publicity. That was funny. WE told him, if you are so powerful as a "international" media entity, why not take up your own case? Maybe use diplomatic channels?

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 7 years ago

    sathya cumaran
    Madam I am furstrated and that is reason why i have given such refrandum please tell as how the matter has to be approached since our way of approaching any govt institution is the method which we do and since In India we donot have solid base so we have to depend upon please provide Disha counselling email id and address and contact number so we need my matter to be solved rather confronting with you if any of mails had hurt your feelings i sincerely apologize for the same we never meant to hurt anybody feeling that an NGO organisation like ML and madam like Sucheta Dalal i feel sorry and ask for excuse if it had hurt your feeling the intention is to solve and as you know the words and language outburst our feelings that would hurt you please help me if you send an mail to IIFL and Reliance securities with mentioning my case we are sure they would solve it within hours such is power of your Institution we seek your humble help in sorting my issue sorry for those harsh mails please forgive me as mentioned we have used harsh words in expressing our grievances

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to Jerin Chacko 7 years ago

    sathya cumaran
    Thanks for your mail if you send your email id i would post my problem and please on behalf of me present the problem to Ml and try ot find some solution
    i need your mail id

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 7 years ago

    sathyacumaran
    Madam if it had hurt your feelings and your institution i am sorry as we are an freelance journalsit and media association from singapore and i happened to be india representative since our is freelancing many organisation assign jobs on an contract basis and we execute as such we donot have any basis as of our own that is reason why we have mailing and sending mails if it had hurt the feeling of MS Sucheta Dalal we seek her apologize and try to help me

    rajivahuja

    In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 7 years ago

    Fair enough.

    Nilesh KAMERKAR

    In Reply to sathyacumaran 7 years ago

    Is this some kind of ' Bura na mano, holi hai' types comment . . . Aakhir, kehna kya chahte ho bhai?

    sathyacumaran

    7 years ago

    sathya cumaran
    singapore media and channel group
    Thanks to money life please take my case of both with India Infoline stock broking firm as well as Reliance securities and try to get justice for which we the employees of singapore media and channel group would be thank ful for money life group and thank madam Sucheta Dalal and her team mates please consider this case

    Suiketu Shah

    7 years ago

    Super news on this sunday.Congrats Moneylife and well fought by Suchitra KrishnamoorthyI had said a few months ago she wl 100% get her money back.These fraud financial "wealth management" experts are lucky they are in India.If they were in a first world country they would be behind bard till death.Truth is most of them are unable to earn money which is why they restore to such tactics of defrauding rich HNI clients.

    One of the biggest frauds I have come across in the wealth management industry in India is one Parimal Shah who superceded they recommendations of his own bank and in a typical Marwadi style made his cronies(only fit to be courier delivery boys) attempt wrongdoings against me.

    Founder of the nation and the greatest Indai ever Mahatma Gandhi has truly stated an eye for an eye makes one blind.This is the only way to deal with seasoned fraud wealth management experts.

    Once again super news.Wel done Ms Dalal ,Mr Basu and ml and congrats for not giving up Suchita Krishnamoorthy.

    REPLY

    sathyacumaran

    In Reply to Suiketu Shah 7 years ago

    sathya cumaran
    Can i have your email id so that you can suggest as how to tackle my case for this on behalf of singapore media and channel group
    would highly indebted to you

    call me my mobile number is 09444021822 and email id [email protected]

    Suiketu Shah

    In Reply to sathyacumaran 7 years ago

    Sorry mate.Im not the right person.Just saved my skin thanks to ml with fraud cheat unable to earn Parimal Shah.Am much much much much better in equities now and wl chop off people like Parimal if they even attempt to come in my or my families life now or in the future.Pl take the advise of Ms Dalal,if possible.Good luck sir and have a great week ahead.

    CHILUKURI K R L RAO

    7 years ago

    It is good that loss to Ms.Suchitra Krishnamoorthy is made good. But for each Suchitra there are thousands of investors whose pain goes un-answered.

    Upfront commissions are the root cause f the mis-selling that happened and the menace continues even now. Why don't we ask for a ban on upfront commissions and make trail commissions and/or fee the only source of remuneration for financial advisers? Aren't Trail commissions a wonderful tool to align the interest of investors and intermediaries perfectly? Do we need all these regulations to safe guard investor interest if there are no upfront commissions?

    S.S.A.Zaidi

    7 years ago

    Congrats to money life team

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