Reply by Devere Group

As the most regulated independent financial consultancy in the world, deVere Group strictly adhere to international regulatory laws. By partnering with some of the world’s most respected investment providers, deVere are able to provide clients with trusted financial products helping them to achieve their financial goals and aspirations. Working in financial services can be hard but very rewarding; we provide full training turning our advisers into fully qualified financial planners gaining CISI qualifications.
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Paranaque, Manila
20 comments

The deVere Group has lost a key legal battle against a US consumer complaints website that posted negative comments about it, but has vowed to continue to fight back against what it calls "the misinformation contained on such sites".

The case in question – initially brought by deVere in July 2011 against a New York-based company officially known as Opinion Corp, which does business online as PissedConsumer.com – highlights the difficulties and expense that even very large companies like deVere can incur when they attempt to silence such online criticism.

The decision in the case comes as the number and visibility of such so-called "gripe sites" continues to grow, fuelled, some say, by growing consumer dissatisfaction with goods and services, as the businesses providing them cut back during the global downturn, or struggle in the currently difficult economic climate.

In the case of investment products sold before 2008, many investors blame the companies from which they purchased them, as returns have failed to live up to their expectations.

Importantly, though, a growing number of companies that have been targeted by the sites are claiming that many if not most of the postings about their businesses are being put up by disgruntled ex-employees, or individuals who work for rival companies.

This echoes criticisms that have begun to cause issues for other consumer review websites that rely on anonymous postings, such as TripAdvisor.com.

The blanket of anonymity, critics maintain, can make it difficult if not impossible to know how much of the commentary found on these sites, whether negative or positive, is genuine.

Meantime, the UK government is in the process of changing Britain's defamation laws in a way that will force websites to identify people who have posted defamatory messages online, making it easier and less costly for people to sue their attackers.

The proposed changes would apply to all websites, but the person seeking to sue would need to demonstrate why the case would have to be brought in the UK.

Gripe site trend

As reported here last month, an Atlanta-based lawyer who specialises in helping investors take legal action against negligent stockbrokers and financial advisers has just launched a "gripe site" for disgruntled brokerage clients in the US called BrokerCop.com.

Websites like PissedConsumer, BrokerCop and others with similar names have emerged alongside the development and success of such review sites as Tripadvisor.com, where people are invited to post reviews of their experiences with airlines, hotels, holiday rentals and restaurants.

However, as the term "gripe" sites (and often, the sites' very names themselves) implies, these sites by their nature exist to publish complaints, rather than a full range of opinions.

(To post a comment on PissedConsumer.com, for example, one clicks a tab marked "post a complaint", even though once there, the options include "I am pissed", "neutral" and "I am pleased". Perhaps not surprisingly, it is virtually impossible to find comments of praise on this particular site.)

Paralleling the emergence of the gripe sites, meanwhile, is another emerging industry, which benefits from the angst gripe sites cause the companies getting griped about: online reputation management.

Online reputation management companies – to quote from the press release of one which calls itself Got Juice – "focus on helping businesses gain positive reviews, and to fight back and remove unwanted negative press from review sites and from the first page of Google".

"It is estimated that one in 10 reviews [posted on review sites such as Qype, Yelp and TripAdvisor] are fake," the Got Juice press release, which went out to journalists last week, adds.

It goes on to note that in the UK, where Got Juice is based, defamation laws are difficult to enforce, "as the vast majority of review sites are based overseas, and do not acknowledge the UK law".

"˜First of many' cases

Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere, which claims to be the largest independent international advisory firm, said the case against Opinion Corp was "the first court case of many that we intend to pursue as we seek to fight back, on behalf of major corporations and "˜real' consumers around the world, against the misinformation that is contained on such sites".

"If believed, the "˜content' on such "˜gripe sites', which is generally just totally unfounded allegations, could potentially damage the good will and reputation of firms that go out of their way to provide a good service to their clients," Green added.

Green said deVere went after Opinion Corp in particular because it makes use of "clever search engine optimisation techniques and companies' names in [its] URL", in an effort to attract traffic to the site.

"We believe this is bad business practice and morally wrong."

DeVere is not the only financial institution active in the international space to appear on the Pissedconsumer.com website. Others mentioned have included Globaleye, AES International, Guardian Wealth, One International, and a number of the UK's biggest banks.

Unlike Green, most of the executives International Adviser contacted whose companies have been targeted by gripe sites declined to talk publicly about them, and in some instances have even asked that their companies' names not be mentioned in this article, apparently fearful of calling attention to the postings – which, almost all agree, are immensely damaging to their businesses' reputations.

Anonymous accusations

The key frustration for deVere and these other companies is the commentators' anonymity. Because the critics' identities is never revealed, they say, the commentators are free to make serious allegations that – in almost any other setting, such as in a newspaper or on television – would be considered libellous.

What is more, they say, it means the websites are free to leave the allegations in place, for all to see. (In fact, the gripe site operators typically say will in fact remove defamatory, offensive, abusive and otherwise violates someone's rights if asked. Many also provide links to the company in question's own website, and urge those about to post a complaint to try first to resolve their problem with the customer services department of the company they are about to complain about.)

Companies that have been subject to gripe site attacks say that the anonymity of the criticism once it does appear on the websites makes it difficult for them to arrange a settlement with the individuals in question.

Their main concern, though, is that it is possible for people to pose as aggrieved clients who are not.

"We have evidence to suggest that the majority of false allegations on gripe sites are written by competitors to show to their potential recruits," deVere's Green said, echoing the comments of other advisory company executives on the subject.

"Indeed, we have pending legal action against another broker who put false statements on the site against us."

"The best we can do is request either the webmaster take down the content and/or request Google remove this from the search engines," added the head of another advisory organisation, who requested anonymity.

"However, both take time and have a limited effect, as once one article is removed, another is posted."

Like others whose companies have been targeted by the gripe sites, this executive noted that his and other financial advisory companies are in good company when they appear on gripe sites, as they sit alongside "most of the FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies".

Added another advisory industry executive, who also asked to remain anonymous: "Emirates Airlines [has been targeted by gripe sites], even though it has been voted best airline of the year. There is always some disgruntled pilot who will put stuff up, or some moaning passenger in business class whose bowl of olives was one short."

Adding to the frustration of companies who find themselves dragged onto gripe sites by anonymous clients or ex-clients or (alleged clients or ex-clients), meanwhile, is the fact that some sites have a firm policy of refusing to remove postings, even when a complaint has been resolved.

The argument behind such policies is that legacy postings provide a useful record for anyone who may be having similar problems with the same company in the future.

But critics claim that this refusal to remove postings that have been resolved can cause lasting damage to companies that actually make a good-faith effort to resolve disputes, by leaving them looking as bad as if they made no effort at all.

Tripped up

Perhaps not surprisingly, anonymity has also been a growing problem at TripAdvisor.com, the acknowledged leader in consumer review websites.

Earlier this month, the Mail on Sunday reported that a diner named "Leila F" claimed on TripAdvisor that she and a friend got food poisoning from a meal at one of British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's newest restaurants.

But "rather than being a genuine case, it seems that Heston may be the latest victim of a growing trend in which people put fake reviews online to damage a business or person, or to provoke a reaction," the MoS noted. (A spokeswoman for TripAdvisor, the paper noted, responded that the company takes "the authenticity of our reviews very seriously and have numerous methods to manage the legitimacy of the content. If a review is found to be in breach of our guidelines, it will absolutely be removed from the site.")

In February, meanwhile, TripAdvisor was obliged to rewrite some of its marketing claims by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, which, responding to complaints from hotels, questioned whether the reviews posted on the site could be fully trusted.

"The ASA said it was concerned that consumers might be fooled by fraudulent posts, since the entries could be made "without any form of verification", a BBC report at the time noted.

(TripAdvisor, the BBC said, responded that the ruling was a "highly technical view" of "copy that was used in a limited capacity".)

LMH

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Comments

Noneeded
#607611

To want to expose bad practice: send the link of this site and threads to everyone you know and ask them to keep sending forward...and just ask people to read and think twice before taking advise from anyone company listed in this site. Buy list of emails in the net, there are reasonably cheap and may help you to reach an incredible number of people in one hit.

Starshollow
Munich, Bayern, Germany #594705

What LMH (or whoever wrote this) is leaving out is this:

DeVere is using legal threats for a long-time now against small website (usually Expat community websites run locally) to take down fully warranted but obviously negative comments EVEN - as is usually the case - where the names and IDs of the people writing these comments are entirely obvious and can or would be fully disclosed. They could take the people who wrote the comments to court - but simply because DeVere does not want this to go to court as they know the evidence is badly against them - it is far easier to spook the low-budget owners of these website with big lawyer-letters and get them to take down the important info about their cold-calling activities and cases of absoute malpractice in advice (for which they are at least in CH and Germany not even licensed). DeVere does not care if someone personally has been badly advised and claims this - they just don't want others to hear and read it.

Therefore a big hurray for the first amendment of the US constitution and the US court of justice who rejected the dispute made by DeVere under very bogus claims. I know that in a number of countries of the EU the local finance authorities are aware of wrongdoings and violation of laws by this particular company and it will only take some more time because they have to shut down operations in a number of European countries. I'll keep you guys here posted

Anonymous
#594671

Make your own mind up about this dreadful company and the uneducated scammers that represent it. deVere have a nice flashy website but the staff are generally cheap people who will tell you anything to clinch the deal.

Remember the saying- Honesty is very expensive gift. Don't expect it from cheap people!

This sums up deVere in their entirety.

Anonymous
Shanghai, Shanghai, China #594251

Met an 'adviser' from deVerre in Shanghai.She is American.

The 'adviser' told her that the FPI unit-linked policy he sold her was completely tax free, and therefore like a gift from the gods for Americans.

It is not, of course.

She did have other options, before he specifically lied to her to get her locked into that policy...

Anonymous
#578106

To deVere Managers LOCKED UP ABRO,

If you are sure about your information, can you put it here then? No need to hide it if you are sure and it must have been you who has forgotten your tootbrush? or your STD's on someone else?

By boat? Ha ha ha, too obvious, you're a big ginger gorilla clown eh?!

Anonymous
#564424

Most people who arrive by flight to Philippines DO NOT leave dead of night by the back door, skipping the country by boat in a hurry? 

WHY Sir?  Did you forget your toothbrush Sir?

You know who you are! We know who you both are... 

Name names shall we Sir? 

You can only be prosecuted for slander if what you're saying isn't true, right Sir? 

How do we know Sir? Thank you mam! 

The trouble with throwing stones when one lives in a glass building seems pretty obvious to some Sir. That Pig headed attitude of yours getting in the way again?  

Name names & go public Sir? Shall we, pray tell? 

 What would Nigel say? Unless of course it was one of his scams?

Anonymous
#560885

Nigel Green and deVere Group is not and never will be respected by the mainstream financial world.Respected media organisations do not seek out deVere or the horrible Mr Green for views, it is exactly the reverse.

deVere seeks to give its view by using a slick PR machine to buy their way into mainstream Media.

Money can buy lots of things but it cannot buy respect or respectability.Mr Green is nothing but a crook who craves to rub sholders with imortant people, but his employees all hate him.

Anonymous
#559764

This is the deVere SALES script word for word. Sound familiar? Had a meeting with a deVere uneducated ROBOT? Ha ha ha...

The Second Gear- Introduction P1

Purpose-Sell the company, sell yourself and to establish your ground rules for business.

Agenda

“The purpose of today’s meeting is for me to tell you all about Devere Group ask you some questions and see if we can establish some common ground”

Largest

“deVere are the largest offshore financial consultancy in the world” I know that’s a big claim so let me back it up with some facts...

Last year we did business in over 120 different countries, we have over 80,000 clients and in excess of $8 billion US$ dollars under management and administration. So you can see a lot of people have put their trust in us as a company.

“Now with over 80,000 clients I am sure you will see that service is very important to us...”

Service

“Let me explain, once you become a client of mine here in Dubai I will personally meet up with you, up to 4 times a year, to review your financial position, depending on your requirements of course. This allows me to keep you up-to-date with any changes in the market place, new products or funds available.

This is also a good opportunity for you to keep me informed about any changes in your personal circumstances”

Now the life of an expat/professional can be changeable so should you move to a...

However if you move somewhere more remote, where we don’t have an office, then we have a dedicated Client Services Dept in Malta, that will proactively contact you via phone, fax and email to make sure you are up-to-date with every aspect of your investment.”

Global

As a global company we offer you service all over the world and are the only company able to offer this, so wherever you are, we’ll be in touch with you and you’ll be in touch with your money.

(Close)- “Can you see the benefit of being looked after wherever you are in the world?”

Independent P2

“The next reason we are so successful is we are completely independent”

Let me explain. It may surprise you to know that most of our competitors are owned by financial institutions.

They will tell you “this is the best product for you”. Now I am sure you will agree that no one company has all the best products, all the time.

Being truly independent means we can use all the products and all the companies in the market, which means you get the best product, with the best returns and the best chance of achieving financial security. We use the best companies in the market, you’ve heard of HSBC, Deutschebank, you’ve heard of Fidelity and Scandia?”

Can you see the benefit of working with a company offering un-biased, independent advice?”

Security

“The next reason we are so successful is the importance we place on the security of your money.”

You obviously work hard for you money, so do i.

“With that in mind i will only recommend products that have government backed investor protection so you know you money is safe.”

Summary

So to summarise, we are the largest offshore brokerage in the world, offering un-biased independent advice and products that have the highest levels of security.”

Trial close

“From what you heard so far are you comfortable working with Devere Group?”

I have been working for deVere for the last 4 years in Dubai prior to that i was in financial services for over 10 years in UK (MORE ***), I have found that experience has been invaluable in helping my clients here make major financial decisions.

Products

It’s my job to bullet proof you finances. However i we will never gamble with your money. We only recommend low to medium risk products that grow steadily over the medium to long-term.

Charges-Bullet Points

• Ok Eric, I suppose you’re wondering what all this costs

• Let me reassure you- No direct charge for my time

• You’re a professional guy, everything has a costs right

• Let me explain!!-Suppose Fidelity is right solution for you- largest fund manager

• Whether you invest through them or directly through me= Same product/ Same returns Same charges

• Crucial difference With Fidelity 1X Annual Statement

• With ME- ALL levels of service I mentioned earlier at No extra cost- Can you see the benefit in this

• Construed as a fee-If Professional Person, offering valuable service-Will ask-introduce to 6 professionals here in Dubai... that you know & I don’t..

• Benefit from a meeting like this

• Are you ok with that?

Ground Rules-Bullet Points

• Let me tell you how I work

• Go through confidential Fact Find

• Where you are today/in future/ how to get you there

• Areas where I can help you

• Don’t want my help-OK- Your money-LEAVE

• DO want my help, instruct me to find perfect solution, ask some 

questions

• What funds, Access, Flexibility- You Want

• My job to find that solution

• Fair amount of work involved- don’t want to waste my time

• Gents Agreement-Next time we meet-

• If we agree you have a need

• I find perfect solution/100% right-

• Become Client

• RECAP-If I find perfect product, 100% happy, answered all question,

• I have earned the right to take you on as a client in Singapore?

• ARE you OK with that............... or do you have any questions?

     

     

  

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Anonymous
#558915

Also, what company is this that hires a consultant who doesn't have any qualifications at all and who's been sexually harassing his staff? Shall we name names Botham???

Anonymous
#558912

yeah, let's name names Botham shall we?who was locked up before?

can you be man enough to tell here the name?if so, do you have enough evidence?

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