Connor Financial gets clean BBB rating despite history of sanctions

Connor Financial Corp., which has a history of sanctions from regulatory bodies, has an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island.

The BBB says that’s because it has not received any consumer complaints about the Victoria firm in the past three years, and the company has not faced any government actions in that time.

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Aldyne Kerrigan, vice-president/operations manager for the Island’s BBB, said her office is aware of Connor Financial Corp.’s background, but its grading system follows that of its governing body. “Every BBB operates under the same policy,” Kerrigan said. That policy, set out by the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Virginia, dictates that a government sanction of a business is posted and remains on the site for three years.

In March, the B.C. Supreme Court terminated an “unconscionable” loan that Connor Financial Services Inc. arranged with a “naive” local couple, who were being charged a 42 per cent annual interest rate. The loan also involved Connor Financial Group. Both companies are owned by Joel Gerrett (Gerry) Connor.

Connor Financial Corp. was sanctioned by the B.C. Securities Commission in 1995. In 2005, the company and its owner were sanctioned by the commission.

In 2011, the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada fined Connor Financial Corp. and Connor as part of a settlement agreement. Connor Financial Corp.’s rating had been dropped to a D, Kerrigan said, but after three years a company’s rating can improve if there are no further consumer complaints or government actions.

The BBB website does not mention Connor Financial’s issues with the securities commission or mutual fund dealer matters.

The website notes that, in 2013, the federal Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments announced that Connor Financial Corp. had refused to compensate retail investors in the amounts of $93,030, $54,109, $189,878 and $250 after investigating their complaints.

That matter did not affect the company’s rating because the ombudsman’s office is not considered a regulatory body for industry and it does not have enforcement powers, Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan urges consumers with a complaint to write the BBB, even if another agency has jurisdiction over the company. That way, the BBB has a record of complaints. The BBB website said it is important for consumers to consult more than one resource prior to engaging services of a business.

For finance-related businesses, the BBB points to the B.C. Securities Commission and the Financial Institutions Commission in B.C.

The B.C. Securities Commission carries out investigations and enforcement and also runs the Investright website. The commission website includes lists of decisions and orders regarding companies and individuals. Investright recommends people use an independent expert, such as a lawyer or accountant, to review planned investments.

Federal rules prohibit charging more than 60 per cent interest. B.C.’s maximum for payday loans is 23 per cent of the amount borrowed.

Mike Watkins, a wealth adviser and financial planner with ScotiaMcLeod and author of the financial planning guide It’s Only Money, also recommends investors do homework.

If you’re looking for an financial adviser, interview at least three before making a choice, he said. Ask about their accreditation, experience and fees charged. Don’t be afraid to ask the branch manager in an office to find out more about an adviser, Watkins added.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

Do your homework

Some key financial websites:

  • bcsc.bc.ca: B.C. Securities Commission’s decision and orders list, investor alerts, and its investment caution list
  • investright.org: Investment advisory site of the B.C. Securities Commission
  • mfda.ca: Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada
  • fpsc.ca: Financial Planning Standards Council
  • securities-administrators.ca: Canadian Securities Administrators
  • sedar.com: For information on Canadian public companies
  • obsi.ca: Federal Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investmentss

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