Fabergé Eggs for Breakfast?
Admin fees. Ugh: is there a less inspiring phrase? So many companies charge them and if you’ve ever tried to get out of a crappy mobile phone contract or had the slowest internet in the world, you’ll know the route to freedom is paved with annoying little payments.
Have this in mind as you read the following:
Along with purchasing courses and mentoring sessions, ex-Lighthouse International Group members tell us they were encouraged to invest tens of thousands of pounds into the organisation itself. Nothing wrong with that, per se.
They allege senior Lighthouse leaders assured them their investment would be returned on request and, well, there’s nothing to worry about! And no, you don't need anything on paper – we're all friends here!
As ever, it’s unclear what these investments are for, as we can't see that anything significant has ever been launched (but more on that in an upcoming post!).
It’s usually a huge, life-changing amount of money, and investing is strongly encouraged by that member’s mentor – with whom they have spent months, or even years, building confidence and trust. (In our humble opinion, this encouragement to part with your cash from your own mentor feels ethically dubious; ex-members report feeling under huge pressure to do this, borrowing money from family, taking out loans, etc).
However, as far as we know, these investments are never returned.
Ex-members tell us that, if you leave the group and ask for your investment back as agreed, things seem to go south pretty quickly.
They say they were told their investment – apparently without their knowledge or agreement – has been all used up. It’s gone!
How? You might ask. What for?
Answer: Duh! To pay for the time it takes us remaining members to sort out the problem of you leaving, you scoundrel!
Let that sink in for a moment.
At best, it’s a confusing and unprofessional response to a serious customer complaint. At worst, it’s the beginning of a period of obfuscation and denial that ends with the claim the exiting member is so problematic, so mentally broken, their request to leave so utterly inconvenient, time-consuming, and disappointing, it will negate the return of their money. Oh, and that all your private mentor sessions have been recorded, remember?
Let’s take this apart.
Are LIG are effectively charging each investor to administrate their exit? This isn’t a £20 admin fee for the signing of documents, or the transfer of your funds safely back into your account… This is the apparent refusal to return thousands and thousands of pounds.
What can Lighthouse need so much money for when someone leaves? None of the ex-members we've spoken to have been afforded a straight answer.
The reality seems to be that: Lighthouse, eg a group of self-stated mentors, some in crippling personal debt, some with unpaid County Court Judgements against them*, some living in temporary LIG share-houses, many with no particularly relevant qualifications, no professional oversight from an external body, apparently unable to achieve (or are uninterested in) professional insurance or an externally monitored code of ethics and proper safeguarding, are effectively charging thousands of pounds per minute for what? Admin?
Are they printing on gold? Are their offices in Buckingham Palace?
Are they eating Fabergé eggs for breakfast??**
Isn't this like your bank saying: "your money's gone, dummy! We used it all up managing your account!"?
There is no paperwork (or at least none seen by the investors we've spoken to) that detail these costs. It would be great for the growing number of disgruntled ex-member-investors to see just how this looks in a good, old fashioned spread sheet.
Especially as the end of the financial year is coming up and HMRC will need to know.
Now, we might have picked up the wrong end of the stick here, and every single one of the ex-members we've spoken to might have got this wrong, so please help us out:
How much does LIG charge, if anything, when a member leaves the group?
What necessary tasks are undertaken when an investor exits and how is this quantified?
What’s the breakdown of cost per hour? And is this comparable to any other type of admin charge in any other industry?
In fact, what administrative tasks could cost thousands and thousands of pounds per investor?
Could a person end up, as some ex-members say they have been told, potentially in debt to LIG for leaving?
Is the claim that anyone can have their investment returned true in practice?
And the big one:
Has any investor EVER left Lighthouse International Group with their investment intact?
We would really love to understand. Please do contact us with any information, comments, or corrections. And if you invested in Lighthouse International Group, exited with no problems, and got your investment back with bells on, do tell us!
Until next time!
PS. Please, please call your families – and perhaps make the necessary steps to move out of temporary LIG accommodations if you can. Shelter.org.uk is a great place for help and advice. But also: calling your friends and families and feeling out whether or not you can stay for a bit could be hugely beneficial. Spoiler alert: they'll all say YES!
*True as of a few months ago; those CCJs may have now been settled – we’ll know as soon as the information is in the public domain.
** Yes, the gags could be better in this post – we’ll try harder next time!