Mortgage products to roll up in court

The West Bromwich Building Society stands accused of offering a mortgage scheme which targets the vulnerable, reports Roger Pearson >

The Investors Compensation Scheme (ICS) is taking the West Bromwich Building Society to the High Court this week, accusing it of marketing a mortgage scheme which targeted the "elderly and vulnerable".

At a preliminary one-day hearing a fortnight ago, it was claimed that West Bromwich knew there was a possibility that investors in the "roll up" mortgage scheme at the centre of the action could end up in a position where they were unable to pay.

But it is claimed that the building society went ahead with the scheme anyway. The case, expected to last at least five months, involves claims for some £30m.

At the preliminary hearing Geoffrey Vos QC told Mr Justice Evans-Lombe, who is to hear the action, that the ICS had taken over the claims of over 700 investors who say they lost out under the scheme and who have sued not only West Bromwich, but various solicitors who acted in many of the cases.

The current action involves 10 test cases out of total of 710 that are in the pipeline.

Vos claimed: "The ICS case against West Bromwich is, in its broadest outline, that the building society set a trap for the unwary, elderly borrower."

He says that, with the assistance of independent financial advisers, Fisher Prew-Smith, it created three roll-up mortgage products designed for and aimed at elderly people.

"These roll-up mortgage products were not just normal mortgage products as the building society seeks to contend. They were, we submit, dangerous risk and defective.

Vos added: "The mortgages were directed at a vulnerable sector of the community. The elderly people at whom they were aimed were vulnerable because they were equity rich and cash poor."