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Business Practices Committee Report 77

Financial Research Foundation (Pty) Ltd

7. The Experiences of some FRF Clients or Victims



The BPC received a number of responses from irate clients of FRF after publication of the notice of the section 8(1)(a) investigation. The following are excerpts from these complaints. The first three letters of the surnames of the clients, in bold, are followed by the dates of their complaints and short synopses of the complaints. They serve to illustrate FRF’s handling of their clients as well as the nature of FRF’s investor audience.


Ada (letter dated 21 May 1999) "I signed a contract on 25 November 1997 and paid R1 500 in full to the consultant, Mr Agenbacht. The first correspondence received was on 22 January 1998. The company requested bank statements and certain documents that I have obtained from the bank. I arranged with the bank to get the relevant documents. I received them within one month and advised FRF to collect. The rep only picked up the documents on 8 June 1998 after several telephone calls. I then tried to contact FRF’s management to report back but in vain. Nobody bothered to call me. After several attempts to contact FRF in 1999 and now lm turning to you to please check up on this company".


Bur (letter dated 18 June 1999) "During 1997 I gave FRF instructions to do an interest audit on my account with the bank. I paid them R1 500 in advance. In spite of numerous calls and correspondence, and notwithstanding the fact that I obtained all the information required by them, none of their promises materialised".


Dup (letter dated 24 May 1999) "On 5 September 1997, after making a telephone appointment, I was visited at my house by Mr Chris Bam who told me that he represented FRF who examines financial records on behalf of clients in order to obtain refunds made by the relevant financial institutions as it was proven the financial frequently overcharge on interest. I paid Ri 500 when signing the contract and was told that although the documents I signed state that a result should be forthcoming after 60 days, due to the amount of word the company has, the investigation would take approximately three months, after which I would be informed of the result. When hearing nothing, I phoned Mr Bam on 19 January 1998 who informed me that he could not handle enquiries and I must phone the company directly. When I phoned the number, a lady informed me that I must phone another number. I phoned at various times but every time only received an engaged tone".


Far (letter dated 25 May 1999) "Attached please find correspondence relating to attempts to recover funds paid to FRF. This was as a result of my signing with this firm to investigate my bond with the Standard Bank and statements that they could recover substantial amounts from the bank. After no action on the part of this company I have attempted to recover my funds without success".


Gam and three acquaintances (undated letter) "We paid R7 200 to FRF on May 1997. We had, on numerous occasions, requested them for a refund, without success. They last communicated with us in November 1998. The present situation is that we are unable to trace them and I have been told they recently sold their property which includes a Hotel "Keerom Case" in Villiersdorp".


Gre, on behalf of Ngc (letter dated 13 October 1996) "The client paid R3 000 to FRF. Unfortunately, despite numerous letters and threats of legal action, no response whatsoever has ever been received".


Hen (letter dated 26 May 1999) "I paid R12 00 on 28 January 1997 to FRF. The whole affair is very clear to me now:


(1) Promises based on bogus (?) letters from clients
(2) Regular meaningless correspondence as a delaying tactic.
(3) Requests for info they already have
(4) Suggest a visit to some far-off location
(5) On visiting their "office" at Villiersdorp I was shocked at the chaos and unprofessional state - their wooden racks were full of brown manilla folders in dusty conditions
(6) They must have made millions of rands out of this scam - I would take great pleasure to see they get their just deserts".


How (letter dated 4 June 1999) "I received an evening phone call from a Chris Long. This man was phoning people at random canvassing business for Financial Research Foundation. I demanded that he give me a contact name so that I could phone them the next day. I phoned the contact, Vollaria, explained the facts and asked her to follow up my contract. This lady stated that they are not an interest recalculation company, instead they are a firm of forensic auditors. Needless to say that was the last I heard from that lady".


Ket (letter dated 31 May 1999) "They have in the recent past been the topic of a presentation on SABC Radio Monitor. I myself have fallen victim, having paid R4 000 deposit and nearly 26 months later had no results. My personal experiences:


Deposits are taken and work, if any, is either delayed or does not take place. When questioned about delays, one is informed that relevant information on the account was requested from the bank, but had not been received or was received late.


At a personal visit to FRF’s offices I requested to inspect their correspondence with my bank, but was told that this was stored in another office and the person with the key had gone on holiday.


I was further informed that my claim had actually been sent to my bank’s head office and received a copy of their letter to my bank, where an acknowledgement or receipt was requested from my bank.


I was requested to pay my outstanding balandé of R5 900 for their interest research.


I commented that I was a little cautious, based on the radio presentation and certain other adverse news on their firm and their industry in general, but was prepared to settle upon acknowledgement of receipt of their claim by my bank.


I emphasized that I was at that stage only interested in receipt of claim and not even any assurance that their claim was valid.


I was threatened with summonses and received a highly abusive telephone call from their director. Needless to say, today - nearly four months later, I have received neither summons nor any confirmation that my claim had been received by my bank.


My own belief, together with views of other ex-clients on Radio Monitor, is that deposits are invested for interest gain and, if at all retuned, only to those shouting the loudest.


With this particular firm there are literally thousands of customers involved, with millions of Rand having been handed over in total, most of whom we assume have written their deposits off, due to the high costs of litigation".


Kim (undated letter) "I entered into a contract with FRF on 30 June 1997 and paid them R1 500. I have this far not had any response from them and this has even led to a strain on my marriage as well as I being the laughing stock of my family and friends. I have since on numerous times tried to make contact with this company by fax and telephonically - but to no avail".


Kri (fax dated 8 July 1999) "I feel that no progress is being made as this has now been going on from 4 April 1997. I would like to have my RI 5000 refunded back to me".


Lab (fax dated 13 July 1999) "During the afternoon of I May 1997 Mr Meintjes, a financial consultant of FRF knocked on our door. He explained to us that banks charged their clients too much interest, in other words, we are being done in. He also told us that we could easily expect RI 5 000 as a refund and that the investigation would be completed within a month. He said that the investigation would cost RI 500. We told him that we could not afford that amount but he said we could pay it by credit card. Should the investigation be unsuccessful, he said, the company would refund us the RI 500 at an interest rate of 15.5 per cent per annum. He later convinced us to have them undertake the investigation. He looked honest and even sang the Lord’s Prayer during our discussion. This convinced us that he was a Christian and that he would not defraud us. Everything looked so promising and at that stage we suffered financially".


From June 1997 to January 1999 this FRF client tried to contact FRF to get a refund on the money paid to the "consultant". He said that it was surprising that the employee at FRF that he spoke to on a previous occasion was never available on the next occasion. The usual explanation to him was that the employee to whom he wanted to speak "... had left the company". FRF employees he spoke to were inter alia Nola, Michelle Friedman, Janine, Gaynor and Charmaine.


"We, as husband and wife, already had heated arguments because of FRF. There were accusations because of the RI 500 plus interest "... that unnecessarily left the house" and because we suffer hardship and could have bought clothes and food for our three children".


Lau (letter dated 19 May 1999) "On 13 May 1997 I paid them R4 875. They would have kept this in trust and I would have received 15.5 per cent annually. Is the company a deposit taking institution? I learned that FRF found that the bank owes me R8 000. I am prepared to cede the RB 000 together with the 15.5% to FRF on the condition that they refund my deposit".


Lou, Bri and Mul (letter dated 4 June 1999) These three FRF clients worked for the same institution. Each of them paid RI 500 to FRF towards the middle of 1997. They have since then not heard from FRF.


Mat (letter dated 16 June 1999) "The amount is too small to justify a private person and a pensioner going to court or even to accrue legal costs. The attached correspondence and other documents cover all of the details of my experience with the FRF but I would add that I had a number of telephone calls to the company as well".


The documentation the consumers made available to the Committee included registered letters to FRF. He stated that he furnished FRF with the original bank statements, but it as again requested by FRF at a later stage. He asked for cancellation of the contact because of non-performance by FRF. The client paid R250 on 3 January 1996.


Rei (undated letter received on 10 June 1999) "I hereby submit copies of documents relating to my own dealings with Financial Research Foundation (Pty) Ltd. I was given a sweet verbal assurance that, because of the promising returns on my claim, the term of recalculation would be extended to 25 years. The whole affair stank like ten skunks but, in the hope that I could get a couple of bob back from the bank, I met all payments and terms of the contract. In attempts to follow up progress on my account I was faced with the frustrations of a bandy man trying to catch a greased pig in a passage. Wet soap is as slippery as sandpaper compared to these operators. Suffice to say that I had not success in contacting FRF and had written of any further developments".


Rid (letter dated 24 May 1999) "I signed a contract with FRF on 22 January 1997, when I was informed that the matter should be concluded after a few months. Needless to say, this has not happened. I only received a reply once after requests for information as could be seen from the enclosed documentation".


Roe (undated letter) "I appointed FRF two years ago to recalculate the interest on my bond. Up to date I have heard very little from them. I paid R1 500. What is now going to happen to my money?"


Sny (letter dated 9 June 1999) "The co-operative and the bank threatened to have us liquidated because we could not pay our debt because or poor crops. We were then approached by FRF. The appointed attorneys EB and WN Reyneke and adv DMDEL to handle our case. We incurred heavy losses because of court cases. The involvement of FRF cost us another ±R200 000 in legal fees. We never heard from the Friedmans again. They refused to talk to us. The end of the story is that we mediated with the bank and the co-operative to pay our debt over three years".


Sty (letter dated 1 June 1999) Styles paid Ri 500 to FRF on 5 May 1997. He said:"After several letters I learned they had gone into liquidation". Yet, on 6 February 1999 he again signed an agreement with another interest recalculator. He paid R2 500 and was promised that he would receive a report back within 8 weeks. "On 24 April 99 I faxed a letter and phoned their Cape Town office. At no time have I received any written acknowledgement from them".


Wak (undated letter received on 1 July 1999) "I have tried unsuccessfully to contact them, by phone and mail (as well as fax) and am getting nowhere. I have a pile of ‘bumph’." (paperwork).


Wei (letter dated 25 May 1999) "During November 1997 I paid Ri 500 to FRF who promised that the investigation would be completed within six weeks. Nothing happened".


Wil (letter dated 21 May 1999) "I paid RI 500 to FRF during 1997. Up to date I received no reaction from the firm and they cannot be traced anywhere. It would seem that they committed fraud on a grand scale".