A Nova Scotia couple is suing their former investment adviser for allegedly defrauding them out of most of their life savings.
Roberta and John Hancock of Fall River used Glenn Dunbar as their adviser for 13 years.
Their lawyer, Dennis James, said Dunbar made it look like the Hancocks were enjoying high returns when he was really only churning their money and earning commissions off various mutual funds.
"Also a good part of his strategy was to encourage them to do high-leverage borrowing against their house and we estimate that in the period of time that they were with him that just under $1.4 million had been invested with them. There's very little left," said James.
Dunbar worked for Quadrus Investment Services, which is also named in the suit. He has not been convicted of any offence.
'I thought I was going to have a breakdown. I have to go on the air every morning and be personable. It was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life.'— John Hancock
James said Dunbar gained the Hancocks' trust and then used their pension money and funds from their remortgaged home to run an elaborate investment scheme.
"So between those three pools, the two pensions and the leveraged mortgage, they invested somewhere around $700,000 and $800,000 on that alone, let alone other investments along the way."
CRA letter demanded $53K
John Hancock, who is a sportscaster for the CBC, said a letter from the Canadian Revenue Agency started to unravel their finances.
"Last November, I got a slip from Revenue Canada saying I owed something like $30,000," he said.
The bill ended up being for $53,000. It said he had drawn $92,000 out of his RRSPs and owed them the tax. The couple say they had not touched their RRSPs.
"That's when we discovered something was terribly wrong with our finances," John Hancock said. "I was in total shock."
"We never gave him permission to do anything with our RRSPs," Roberta Hancock said. "All we ever did was trust him."
John Hancock said he had known Dunbar since 1999. "He gained our trust and then lived off our money."
House now at risk
Roberta Hancock, who co-owns the production company PinkDog Productions, said she expected more oversight from Quadrus Investment Services.
"We've lost all of our savings, our future. He's taken money from our daughter. He's changed our lives. We don't know how we're going to move on from here. We're probably going to lose our house. We're losing everything because of this guy," she said.
John Hancock said it was a traumatic discovery.
"I thought I was going to have a breakdown. Here I have to go on air every morning and be personable. It was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life," he said.
"We were at a point where we couldn't even buy groceries to keep living. Now I know what it's like to live at the poverty level. We have no money. We're living hand to mouth."
The Hancocks are also suing Quadrus Investment Services, the company Dunbar was working for.
They claim it knew, or should have known, what Dunbar was doing was improper.
The statement of claim said Dunbar admitted during an investigation by Quadrus that he pocketed more than $230,000 worth of cheques made out to him by the Hancocks instead of investing the money as they intended.
Heidi Schedler, enforcement counsel for the Nova Scotia Securities Commission, called it a serious allegation.
"We will be looking into it," she said.
Quadrus has been investigated before, she said. A case earlier this year ended in a settlement. It involved a different agent and did not appear to be related to the Hancock case, she said.
Code of ethics
Marlene Klassen, assistant vice-president of communication services at Quadrus, said Dunbar was no longer with the company. She did not comment on the Hancocks' case specifically, but did say the company's code of ethics must be signed by all people who work for them.
"Where we find an investment representative has not maintained the ethical and business standards of our company or industry, we take appropriate action, which can include termination of the representative’s contract," she said.
None of the Hancocks' claims has been proven in court.
Dunbar is believed to be working in Alberta in a different industry. He could not be reached for comment.