May 14th 2008
UPDATE. July 1, 2008.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2008 6:16 PM
Subject: Bovero URGENT
FOR OPEN PUBLICATION
Dear Mr Marks
RE: BOVERO FAMILY
I refer to my email to you of more than a month ago requesting that you contact me urgently regarding the plight of the Bovero family. You have ignored my message.
You have also ignored Mr and Mrs Bovero's specific instructions to you to speak with me.
The situation is now critical. Mrs Bovero is so distressed about how she has been treated by you that she is becoming sick. It's not just her financial health that's being destroyed, it's now her emotional and physical health.
Mr Marks, I implore you to contact me regarding the Bovero family.
PS I am writing an article about the Noah Group and the Bovero case. I plan to release the article on Monday July 7. If you have any public comments you wish to make, please let me know before this Friday July 4.
UPDATE. MAY 21, 2008. Please scroll down to read a reply by Mr Marks and further comments from Neil Jenman.
TO: BRETT MARKS, CEO of the Noah Group of Companies.
FROM: NEIL JENMAN, Consumer advocate and real estate writer.
Because this is an 'open letter' - which means it will be read by the public - it is necessary to offer some background detail for readers regarding Brett Marks and The Noah Group and, of course, the reason for this open letter.
On Tuesday May 13, 2008, a lady who assists me with my research, Louise Jansen, telephoned Brett Marks to ask if he would speak with me. The reason I want to speak with Mr Marks is because one of his clients (Daryl and Amanda from Mackay in Queensland) who have invested with The Noah Group, are extremely distressed. They are worried that they are going to lose their family home.
According to Louise, Mr Marks was very angry and somewhat abusive about me. He said: "It's none of his business," and, "I have nothing to say to him."
Well, I have something to say to you, Mr Marks and here it is…
You and your company often come to my attention via consumers who contact me. They all tell a similar story - that they have been contacted by The Noah Group, usually after filling in a form at a local shopping centre where, I understand, you set up display booths offering people the chance to have "$10,000 paid off their home loan".
If the people agree, one of your consultants visits them in their home.
The consultant then says that The Noah Group can help them to create wealth, save tax and pay off their home loan more quickly. Such a claim is made by many self-titled wealth creation companies.
The consultant also tells the people that The Noah Group has won an award from the Queensland Government for protecting consumers.
So, I am surprised that you are refusing to speak with me, a consumer advocate. I spend much of my life protecting consumers.
As I understand it, The Noah Group sells investment properties to families on the basis that these properties will help families to create wealth and reduce their mortgage. Well, that does not seem to be the case with Daryl and Amanda.
Let me tell you what they are telling me…
Daryl and Amanda purchased a house-and-land package after receiving advice from The Noah Group. With expenses, the total cost of the property was around $390,000.
Since they bought the property they claim that the rent has been much lower than you told them and that the expenses have been much higher than you told them.
When I spoke with Amanda, she was almost in tears. Here is what she said, "Noah told us it was going to cost $40 to $50 per week. It is costing us $2,700 per month."
Amanda then said, "This is killing us. We can't even afford money for the kids."
Amanda told me she had contacted The Noah Group about selling the property; however, based on its value, they seem to be facing a loss of somewhere around $50,000. I checked this myself - I had three agents look at the property - and it seems like their loss will be substantial if they sell.
So, Daryl and Amanda seem to be in the situation where they cannot afford to keep the property and they cannot afford to sell it. This seems a classic case of lose/lose.
Of course, Mr Marks, all this information could be completely wrong, but because you are angry and refusing to speak with me, I have no way of getting your side of the story. All I have is a distressed family to whom I have made a promise to help them. I intend to keep that promise.
What I suggest, of course, is that, if what they are saying is true, then you, as the CEO of such a seemingly large and successful company (and a person who publicly talks about God and the Bible), will rush to help them.
I suggest that you cover their loses and, at the very least, put them back in the situation they were in before they had dealings with your company. Fair enough?
Now, here's another topic that I wished to discuss with you.
Many consumers tell me that The Noah Group offers what it calls 'THE BOLT'. Apparently, this is a plan of yours so that homeowners can pay off their home loans more quickly.
Here is what I understand happens: The homeowners take out an extra mortgage on their family home, say for around $50,000, and then invest this money at 15 (or more) per cent, in a development company recommended by you.
This sounds like the sort of thing that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has been issuing warnings about.
Do you have a financial services license from ASIC? Having won a consumer protection award - which you advertise widely to attract investors - I assume you comply with the financial laws.
Anyway, back to Daryl and Amanda.
Following your advice (and in addition to their property investment), Daryl and Amanda say that The Noah Group told them about 'THE BOLT' which was to borrow $35,000 against the equity in their home and invest it in a company recommended by you, a company called Bricks and Mortar Limited. They say they were promised a monthly payment of $432; however, since September last year they claim to have received no payments. Nothing.
So, as you can imagine, Darryl and Amanda are in terrible trouble, both with their property and this extra loan for a financial investment recommended by you for which they are getting no return.
Mr Marks, it is no good being angry with me. That's not going to help anyone. You told Louise, my researcher, that lots of people sue me. What did you mean by that?
Yes, I admit that lots of spruikers threaten me, some sue me, some set up web sites against me, some threaten my family, some even physically attack me. I am not popular with rogues who rip off consumers. But you are not a rogue, are you? You are a good fellow aren't you, a Christian?
Please don't be angry with me. Let's talk, eh. Let's help Daryl and Amanda.
How about it?
REPLY FROM THE NOAH GROUP
Received May 19, 2008
Dear Mr Jenman,
We respond to your open letter published on your website regarding clients, Mr and Mrs. Bovero. Regrettably we are unable to provide specific financial details of the issues raised by them, as we are bound by very stringent privacy laws. We will be writing directly to Mr and Mrs. Bovero. Should they wish to make this letter available to you then you will have an opportunity to understand the facts and also their situation with much more clarity.
The Noah group takes very seriously any concerns raised by our clients and our obligations to our clients under various legislation. The issues raised in the story clearly demonstrate the tendency for misunderstanding and misinformation in one-sided communication. We would appreciate the opportunity to clarify some facts in relation to this story and our business in general.
The Noah Group is a financial services organisation that has several divisions, each with its own team which focuses on the delivery of specific outcomes for our clients. They include the sourcing of finance, real estate, and other investments for clients in addition to project and property management services. Our business operates under the appropriate licenses and supervision of the regulatory authorities in the financial planning, finance, real estate and building sectors. We are proud to have been honoured with several awards for our service. However, these awards pale in comparison to the real achievements we have made in assisting our clients to accumulate assets.
The Noah Group advocates investment for the long term rather than the short term. We believe that, in general, any investment should be held for between 7 to 10 years. We make this very clear to our clients prior to coming to our office. Buying and attempting to sell assets in a shorter period is really not investing, but trading and speculating. This strategy may result in losses, depending on the time of entry and exit from the investment. Mr and Mrs. Bovero's investment property was handed over in November, 2006, so they have held it for less than two years at this stage. As an experienced real estate agent, Mr Jenman, you would know that generally you cannot expect to make large profits from short term investments in real estate. Moreover there are always additional costs in purchasing a property such as stamp duty etc. which may take time to recover.
Sometimes, after making investments, investor's financial positions change, as is the case with Mr and Mrs Bovero.
This is despite the allegations made by Mr Anthony Marx in the Courier-Mail. Our finance strategists take a thorough approach when assessing the investment capacity of our clients. They use only the information that is provided to them by the client. However, the final assessment is made by the financial institutions that provide the loan for any investment as required. It is not possible, in the absence of a crystal ball, to take into account changes in financial circumstances in the future. For example, where clients may have their incomes reduced through employment changes, or where their expenses increase through the choices they make or where economic conditions change.
It is worth noting that, in the case of Mr and Mrs Bovero, they chose to arrange their own finance with their own bank (National Australia Bank). The Noah Group encourages its clients to use an industry online software budgeting program, this helps the client to develop good budgeting habits. From the information supplied by Mr and Mrs Bovero's latest online budget on the 29th April 2008, their circumstances had changed dramatically.
The purchase of an investment property involves costs in addition to the purchase price. These include stamp duty, legal fees, etc. However, we also suggest that our clients borrow enough to cover any interest on their loan whilst their dwelling is under construction. This ensures that their normal weekly expenditure remains fairly constant. There are a range of financial products and structures that can be used to assist clients in managing their cash flow and obtaining the maximum benefits. In Mr and Mrs. Bovero's case, they wanted to use their own bank, so we were unable to assist them in this area.
Mr and Mrs Bovero have now been receiving a significant rental income each week from their investment property, which is exactly in accordance with the amount quoted at the time of the meeting with us and signed off by them.
When markets change, investors should approach the event with common sense and a clear strategy. Sometimes, however, people tend to follow the advice of well meaning friends and relatives with very little experience or in some cases, other advisors who are simply out to win new business. Unfortunately, Mr and Mrs Bovero declined our assistance in March this year to review their circumstances. They told us they had sought advice from another financial planner. They are still currently utilising Noah's property management services and achieving the exact return documented on the day of their purchase. We anticipate that this will grow over time. We are happy to continue providing this service to them and we hope that they will approach us directly if they require any further assistance or other services.
Mr Jenman, I do not appreciate your personal attack on my beliefs. This is extremely unprofessional, to say the least. For the record I am not angry with you but simply feel that this is a private matter that should be dealt with directly to our clients.
Finally, if Mr and Mrs Bovero allow you to actually peruse our letter pointing out the full facts, I would like you to totally withdraw any reference to our company and myself from your websites. If you are the professional and ethical person you claim to be an apology would be appreciated and I would consider this to be the end of the matter.
COMMENTS FROM NEIL JENMAN
May 21, 2008
Dear Mr Marks
Thank you for your reply.
I make the following comments…
COMMUNICATION - The reason for the "one-sided communication", as you call it, is because you refused to have two-sided communication with me. So, if you won't take my telephone call, we can communicate in this manner.
EXPERIENCED AGENT - I am not a real estate agent, I am a real estate consumer advocate. I have not worked in a real estate agency since the early 1990s. The Bovero family asked me to help them regarding their experiences with The Noah Group.
INVESTING PROFITS - You are right, ordinary mum-and-dad investors cannot expect to make large short-term profits in real estate, especially when dealing with so called wealth-creation companies.
I believe that the only one making large short-term profits is you and The Noah Group.
DATE OF PURCHASE - The Bovero family signed-up to the buy the property from The Noah Group in March 2006. The price was $357,267 plus expenses and costs bringing the total to around $390,000.
VALUE - I spoke with Michael McNamara from Australian Property Monitors. His research - which is, in my opinion, the most accurate in Australia - shows that property prices in the area in which the Boveros bought, have risen 26% in the last two years. But not the property sold by your company.
REPAYMENTS - In your booklet advertising The Noah Group, you write, "Every week Noah helps more people towards the secure future that everyone wants but can seem so elusive. All of this is done with little or even no cash outlay!"
Well, Mr Marks, never mind "future", these people are struggling to survive the present. They want to get out of this deal that you got them into.
As for "little or no cash outlay", they are being crushed by payments on their investment property. You say their rental income is "significant". Well, so is their monthly loss. It's much more significant. It's killing them financially.
FURTHER ASSISTANCE - You say that Mr and Mrs Bovero declined your further assistance and had sought advice from another financial planner.
Do you blame them? The other financial planner told them not to take any more advice from you about getting into more debt.
They are angry and upset with you and The Noah Group because they feel that your advice has given them such a huge debt and such a huge payment.
If it's such a good deal, then here's an idea for The Noah Group. Take it back.
THE 'BOLT' INVESTMENT - You have ignored my concerns regarding this 'Bolt' investment. You advised the Bovero family to take out an extra loan against the equity in their family home and invest this money with a property development company. They were supposed to receive regular income equating to 15% return which was supposed to help them pay off their home loan faster.
Well, the promised payments have stopped. This has left the Boveros saddled with extra debt and further loan repayments.
YOUR BELIEFS - You say that you "do not appreciate" my "personal attack on your beliefs". Read my letter again. I merely commented on the fact that you beat the I-am-a-Christian drum.
In your advertising literature for The Noah Group, you make multiple religious references. If you wish to use your beliefs as part of your marketing methods, that's your decision. But, please, do not be upset when someone asks you to uphold those beliefs.
I make a final appeal to you to speak with me directly about helping the Bovero family. They are a hard-working, good, decent family, real battlers. They are immeasurably distressed, especially since your recent letter to them.
The longer this goes on, the worse it gets for the Boveros.
Please contact me and let's work out how you can fulfil that Noah Group motto of "helping Australians build wealth".
Let's start by making the Boveros wealthier by getting them out of this deal that you got them into.
I will consider this matter at an end when the Boveros are happy.