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Debt company creates financial disaster

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 18:23 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

Mike Jones from Cwmbran

Mike Jones from Cwmbran

A finance company run by ex-bankrupts has gone bust leaving more than 1,000 people out of pocket.

Administrators are picking over the bones of Apex DCM but experts say the company’s victims are unlikely to get their money back.

Mike Jones from Cwmbran is one of the company’s victims. He got badly into debt and ended up owing nearly £39,000.

Nottingham based Apex DCM seemed to have the answer. They would handle all correspondence with his creditors and handle repayments. For £450 a month the company promised he would be debt free in six years.

But last December he spoke to the company and found out he still owed around £34,000. Despite making payments totalling £34,000, Apex DCM paid off just £4,000 of his debts.

Mike was devastated by the news: “An abyss just opens up underneath you and you just wants to suck you in. You look into you and ask how you could allow yourself to be scammed for £30,000.”

The company was started by former bankrupt John Baird in 2002. His company secretary Sentley Wilson was a solicitor at the time, but has since been struck off for misappropriating clients money. He’s was also declared bankrupt – but continued to be involved with Apex DCM.

The pair were also directors of a number of other small companies – all of which are now defunct or have proposals to strike them off the register of companies.

These companies owe Apex DCM around £1.3m. John Baird also personally owed the company more than £400,000 when he died in 2009.

X Ray asked forensic accountant Geoff Mesher of Grant Thornton to look at the administrators report into the company.

He told us: “These loans may have been made entirely legitimately and with the best intentions  to help other companies. At the other end of the spectrum it could be that these payments were, deliberately made to defraud creditors of Apex DCM and move that money out to benefit ultimately someone else.”

He said it was unlikely that creditors like Mike would get any money back from the company.

John Baird died in October 2009.  We wrote to Sentley Wilson asking him what he’d done with the money Apex DCM had received from Mike and other customers, but he hasn’t responded.

Mike has now been forced to declare himself bankrupt.

He told X Ray: “I could have gone bankrupt seven years ago and could be be out and be putting my life back together again. But there was a pride in me in paying back what I borrowed.

“We're back on near breadline again. Any father would want to do the best for their children and I can't. “

Apex DCM is an extreme case, but regulators are concerned about standards in the debt management industry. The Office of Fair Trading carried out a review of the industry last year and gave warnings to 129 companies. 

So what should you do if you’re struggling with serious debt?  It’s important to remember that there is no need to use a debt management company as a number of reputable organisations will help for free. There’s a list of these companies below:

Citizens Advice, National Debtline and the Consumer Credit Counselling Service.
 
Details of where to access help locally is also available from Consumer Direct.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Having just seen your report on debt management companies which focused on one company already gone under with no advice or help for people other than: 'do not pay for debt management' as there are companies that will do it for free.

    This is an absolutely shocking statement and clearly ill researched. Firstly has anyone tried to get help from Citizens Advice? They do an amazing job, but are massively understaffed and under funded BECAUSE THEY DONT CHARGE.

    Some of the charities that offer 'Free' advice are actually paid by the creditors, which raises a fundamental question of independence and impartiality. Who is the charity actually trying to help? Do X-Ray even know this?

    To say that you should not pay for advice is crass advice. Help is never free, it has to be paid for. What X-Ray could and should have done is suggested people research the companies they intend to use - forums everywhere will sniff out a rat - and compare them to the charity help.

    This is lazy journalism, utterly incomplete and incompetent.

    May I add that I am not a debt management counsellor/rep, I am a Mortgage Adviser who has actually looked into paid for and free firms for clients in need. I do not rule out any charity help, but I do say 'do your research'.

    With regards to the gentleman above I must ask how he did not know his payments were not made? As your creditors would still send you statements and threatening letters if you are not making payments. I do not cast judgement, but I would ask these questions before tarring every DMP company with the same brush.

    Lastly, there ARE a lot of poor quality DMP companies out there. Please look around, get recommendations from those who have actually been made DEBT FREE or had their debts reduced (not just the payments, that’s the easy part).

    Look for long standing companies with a reputation and once in a DMP you must still check your statements every month. The debt is still your responsibility.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    welshy2000,

    Regarding that gentleman and DCM


    Firstly if you actually listened to the article it clearly explained how many payments were made and its values.

    Okay maybe you missed it.

    "with regard to that gentleman above" he joined DCM in 2004, paying £650 per month for over two years, this reduced to £450 per month thereafter.

    With regard to letters from creditors, threatening letters etc, DCM redirected mail directly to them, all DCM creditors had to go on was a clients log. These logs comprised of a month payment in less payment made less fee (10%). The balance then would be added onto the previous statement to create the clients balance.

    You say you are not casting judgement but thats what you are indeed doing by suggesting that the BBC programme didnt look into the case in question in depth. Something they clearly did i can assure you.

    How do i know this well im the "with regard to that gentleman above" so i should know EXACTLY what was done to bring this story to the screen and the information supplied too (which was quite extensive"

    You say that your a mortgage advisor, yet you have taken it apon yourself to move into journalism by saying things are "incomplete and incompetent". You do not know what information was provided to the BBC or what questions that were asked and answered therefore may i suggest you stick to what you are good at "being a mortgage advisor"

    with regard to how i know payment were not being made, firstly i have spoken to all my creditors (something DCM explained whilst they were around i WAS NOT to do under any circumstances all information would be contained on the client log given) oh and the administrators have already picked up thaty £75,000 per month on average of clients money was not being passed onto their creditors. Again something you could have looked into before making such a stupid comment.

    Unless you are caught up in this type of event you are hardly going to understand what it is like. Whilst we are talking about research, prior to making such comments about my case and commenting on the DCM situation might i suggest you look at the following forum. It provide some valuable insight into the DCM situation and those affected.

    http://forum.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=3098382

    Never mind there are people out there going bankrupt after paying these people the kind of money that should have got them out of debt

  • Comment number 4.

    I believe that what they(DCM) and possibly other companies were doing was making the very minimum acceptable regular payment to creditors and keeping the rest supposedly to save in the client's account with a view to making a full and final offer.
    HOWEVER it appears that in the case of DCM the money was being syphoned out of clients' accounts to be used for their own purposes.
    I'm sure this contravenes regulations.
    Towards the end of their operating life DCM seemed to cease making any regular payments at all.

  • Comment number 5.

    In regard to Paragraph 7 (starting - With regard to the Gentleman above) of
    Comment 1, please understand this, when your in a state of mind wherby you
    dont know whether your coming or going because of the pressure, its easy to
    just find someone that you feel at the time can help you. The reason i didnt go to
    the CAB was because my local was only open 2 days a week and always very
    busy. The only reason i signed up with Dcm was the fact my Friends Dad at the
    time was a Franchise Manager for Dcm so how could i not trust someone that i'd
    known for years. Going back to not knowing that creditors werent being paid,
    Dcm staff were good at convincing their clients not to worry about letters
    arriving from creditors. It was like our minds were programmed into believing
    the following statement "If you get a letter from a creditor, send it to us, we will
    deal with it" so thats what we did. The reason i didnt know that my creditors
    werent being paid is because in a period of nearly 4 years i very rarely had a
    creditors letter arrive as they were few and far between. Had i have been getting
    letters constantly from the same creditor, then i would have known that
    something was amiss. Simples.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]Right.

    1 11 companies have had their licenses taken away.
    2. 127 have recieved warnings

    And on TOP of this there is new guidance of exactly what is expected from debt management companies by the OFT.

    I wonder what percentage this is of the industry.

    If this had happened to anyother industry there would be "what is going on in this industry" "what is going wrong" and "legislation, legislation legislation....... where is the legislation".

    What has happened in respect to the intervention by the OFT is significant, its not taring with the same brush, this industry has obviously been operating without the required legislation.

    138 organisations have recieved some kind of sanction for their actions, these being debt charging organisations. How many free charging organisation were warned or shutdown - NONE

    I do not see the debt industry coming out in their droves to condemn the actions of these organisation or DCM.

    The only organisation that has helped in this whole sorry state of affairs is cleardebt and Andrew Smith.

    Shame the rest of the industry hasnt followed suit.

    The way in which these companies have been operating must have been known to other companies operating in this very same sector yet still nothing had been done until after DCM's demise.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

 

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