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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Neil Woodford’s return is an insult to investors

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Neil Woodford’s return is an insult to investors

Neil Woodford has some nerve. In a tearful interview at the weekend, the disgraced fund manager responsible for torpedoing thousands of savers' retire

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Neil Woodford has some nerve. In a tearful interview at the weekend, the disgraced fund manager responsible for torpedoing thousands of savers’ retirement plans revealed he is plotting a comeback.

It has not even been two years since the fallen star stock-picker’s empire imploded, leaving his followers roughly half a billion pounds out of pocket.

The City watchdog has not finished investigating the scandal, there are impending court cases and ordinary savers are still waiting to get their hands on around £200 million yet to be freed from the frozen equity income fund.

Fallen star: It has not even been two years since Neil Woodford's empire imploded, leaving his followers roughly half a billion pounds out of pocket

Fallen star: It has not even been two years since Neil Woodford's empire imploded, leaving his followers roughly half a billion pounds out of pocket

Fallen star: It has not even been two years since Neil Woodford’s empire imploded, leaving his followers roughly half a billion pounds out of pocket

Yet here is Woodford, bold as brass, announcing that after a brief spell of soul-searching, it’s time for him to get back to work.

After all, it wasn’t only retail investors who suffered financially — he had to sell his £30 million home and stables, too, you know.

Perhaps anticipating the howls of unbridled fury from devastated savers, he is sticking to raising cash from professional investors this time. 

But as the Mail’s City Editor Alex Brummer pointed out on Monday, that could still mean getting his mitts on our pension money – although I suspect firms with strict governance checks may have more than a few questions.

And, regardless, what sort of message is this sending to the investment industry?

The Woodford scandal caused untold reputational damage to the likes of Hargreaves Lansdown and St James’s Place, which heavily promoted the doomed fund. 

And there is still an enormous amount of work to be done around improving transparency. It is far too difficult to find out exactly where our money is invested – and how much we are paying in fees.

If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that we should be encouraged to look under the bonnet of our investments, not deterred from doing so.

The Financial Conduct Authority was slow to act when Woodford was unravelling, but now it needs to bare its teeth.

I’m sure the thought of a 30‑plus‑year career ending on such a sour note is bitterly disappointing for Woodford. But allowing him simply to start over as if nothing has happened would be an insult to the thousands of savers still reeling from his mistakes.

For the investment industry to have a hope of rebuilding trust, he must be forced to stay away.

Take ’em to task

Insurers have really tested our patience over the past 12 months.

Struggling small business owners felt betrayed after paying thousands of pounds for business interruption cover, only to have claims denied due to vague small print.

Even after the High Court ruled in favour of policyholders, insurers prolonged their suffering by dragging the case to the Supreme Court — where they lost again.

Many travel and wedding insurers have also ducked valid claims, while denying refunds to those who have been unable to use their policies due to the lockdowns.

But this behaviour has cost the industry dear.

A report by the City watchdog revealed last week that more than a fifth of adults trust insurers less because of Covid, while one in three don’t think firms did enough to help customers.

The only upside is that one in three also said they are now more likely to shop around for a better deal.

With the loyalty penalty costing households £1 billion a year, voting with your feet is the best way to make insurers pay.

Heartless slip-up

Thank you for all your emails in response to my column last week, about the difficulties faced by the bereaved when wrapping up their loved ones’ financial affairs. One reader, Agnes, shared an astonishing example of ineptitude.

After informing Scottish Power of her aunt’s death, she received a letter addressed to the executors which read: ‘Congratulations on your recent move. We’re delighted to be supplying your electricity and hope you’re settling in well.’

Agnes said: ‘I couldn’t see my aunt when she was in hospital due to the pandemic, so having to explain why I found the letter so disrespectful has been distressing.’

It beggars belief that such insensitive admin errors are still slipping through the net so regularly.

[email protected]

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This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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