Farmer loses case over €198,000 drop in investment

High Court upholds ombudsman finding that investor’s complaints about financial advice were not substantiated

The High Court upheld the Financial Ombudsman’s finding that Val O’Driscoll’s complaints were not substantiated. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

The High Court upheld the Financial Ombudsman’s finding that Val O’Driscoll’s complaints were not substantiated. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

 

A farmer whose €350,000 investment dropped to €152,000 after it failed to perform as expected has lost an appeal over whether he received financial advice before investing.

The High Court upheld the Financial Ombudsman’s finding that Val O’Driscoll’s complaints were not substantiated.

He had claimed the ombudsman erred in her findings.

Mr O’Driscoll, Ballinderrig Farm, Ballinderrig, Little Island, Co Cork, invested the €350,000 in the “Broad Street Geared Property Life Fund” managed by Irish Life.

The investment was made through the Mallow Mortgage Company trading as Liam Mullins and Associates. Prior to the investment in January 2007, a meeting took place between Mr O’Driscoll, Liam Mullins and Donal O’Connell of Irish Life.

The fund was invested in a UK commercial property in Broad Street, Bristol, which was leased to a major bank at €1 million per year. Irish Life had acquired the property and it was transferred into a unit-base life and pension funds.

No evidence

It did not perform as anticipated. The Broad Street building was sold in 2013 and Mr O’Driscoll received a return on his investment of €156,621 in May 2015.

He complained to the ombudsman who found there was no evidence to show Mallow’s representative provided him with any investment advice.

It was provided on an “execution only” basis and the policy documentation clearly highlighted the risks, the ombudsman also said.

In relation to Mr O’Driscoll’s complaint that Irish Life wrongfully advised him, including misrepresenting the risk profile of the investment, the ombudsman did not uphold the complaint.

Irish Life did not act in an advisory role or in any way assessed his risk profile with a view to matching that profile to any particular product, the ombudsman said.

He then appealed those findings to the High Court.

Ms Justice Mary Faherty ruled the findings, in relation to whether it was an execution only investment, were not vitiated by serious or significant error.

She found the ombudsman did not fall into error in failing to determine whether Mr O’Driscoll was, or was not, a sophisticated investor.

She also accepted, once a box was ticked on the application form to say it was “execution only”, the ombudsman was reasonably entitled to regard it as such a transaction.