More TD Canada Trust customers are accusing the bank of losing tens of thousands of dollars in Retirement Savings Plan contributions they deposited with the financial institution.
Two TD clients who spoke to CBC News say they made RSP contributions in the 1990s but that their money has since vanished. Their case comes to light after another case involving a TD customer who originally raised concerns last year and has now filed a lawsuit.
Bhuepndra Narsey, 64, and his wife Alina say they contributed about $10,000 to their RSPs through Canada Trust in 1994. It merged with TD in 2000.
They paid little attention to the RSP accounts after they left Canada in 1996 and moved to New Zealand where Bhupendra, an engineer, took a job, they said.
Last July, the soon-to-be retired pair contacted the bank and discovered their RSPs couldn't be located.
"How can they just lose money? I mean, it's our money and they just don't know what happened," Alina Narsey told CBC News.
"Banks are supposed to take care of our money and keep it until we want to withdraw it."
TD denies any wrongdoing, saying the couple must have given the bank permission to transfer the RSPs in question to another financial institution more than 20 years ago.
TD says customers transferred RSPs, but doesn't know where to
The Narseys showed CBC News correspondence from the office of the bank's internal ombudsman informing them TD had transferred their RSPs — which they say should now be worth about $32,000 — to another financial institution.
The correspondence says the bank's limited records show the transfers occurred in February and March 1995.
But TD no longer has records of where it sent the RSPs and was unable to provide documents showing the couple's request to transfer the investments.
"Based on my review of the facts, it appears, TD does not have the specific details of where the RSPs were transferred to because TD does not retain records from 25 years ago," according to the email to the Narseys from Rebecca Seaman, TD's assistant ombudsman.
"TD does retain records for RSP accounts for seven years, in accordance with applicable provincial laws."
Bhupendra Narsey says neither he nor his wife ever authorized TD to transfer their RSPs, which would have been necessary for the investments to be moved elsewhere.
"We have not cashed these, nor have we transferred them.They are still with Canada Trust," he said.
The Narseys also have RSP accounts with Scotiabank and Bank of Montreal. Narsey says neither bank has records of receiving an RSP transfer from Canada Trust.
"That's our money. That's hard-earned cash," his wife said.
CRA has no records of RSPs being cashed
The couple also showed CBC News correspondence from the Canada Revenue Agency indicating it has no records of the RRSPs in question being cashed or taxed.
Financial institutions in Canada are obligated to report to the agency whenever a customer cashes an RRSP because the recipient is required to pay federal taxes on the funds.
The couple provided CBC News with copies of the receipts Canada Trust gave them in 1994, when the contributions were made, along with their corresponding tax returns documenting the contributions.
Together they deposited a total of $9,219.00.
In a statement to CBC News, Fiona Hirst, TD's senior manager of corporate and public affairs, said the Narseys' RSP accounts were closed 26 years ago.
"We take customer concerns very seriously. After completing a thorough investigation with updated information, we were able to locate the statements indicating that the accounts were closed and funds transferred out in 1995," she wrote to CBC News.
"The annual statements showing the transfers would have been mailed to Mr. and Mrs. Narsey in early 1996, before they moved overseas."
The Narseys say they never received any such statements.
Unhappy with TD's findings, they escalated their complaint to ADR Chambers Banking Ombuds Office, or ADRBO.
It's a regulated, bank-funded private company that mediates complaints filed by customers of its member banks, including TD, Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank of Canada, National Bank of Canada and Digital Commerce Bank.
ADRBO declined to investigate citing, in part, the lack of bank records.
It also blamed the Narseys for not keeping better tabs on their investments.
"We note that you did not monitor your RRSPs for 26 years; we cannot find the bank liable to pay you the amount of these RRSPs as (a) you did not meet your obligations to monitor and keep track of your own accounts and (b) the bank does not retain records for 26 years," ADRBOs' ombudsman officer Kayla Albin told the couple in a letter on April 27.
Bhupendra Narsey concedes he could have kept closer watch over his TD RSPs. He assumed, however, that they were safe at a reputable Canadian banking institution.
Although the Narseys say the money won't make or break the couple's retirement, they do want to know where it went.
"The RRSPs are not supposed to be cashed in until you're 65, that's my knowledge on it. The TD bank should have kept those records until then," Bhupendra Narsey said.
TD client sues bank over missing RSPs
Bob Grossman has a similar story. He is now suing TD Canada Trust hoping to find out where his RSPs went.
He filed a lawsuit in March claiming the bank lost his retirement money currently worth $104,622.37.
Grossman, a 35-year customer of Canada Trust, and then TD, also wants $50,000 in punitive damages.
The lawsuit, which claims breach of trust, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty, hasn't been tested in court.
Grossman declined an interview request regarding the lawsuit, but first approached CBC News about the situation last year.
CBC News reviewed bank and tax documents showing Grossman contributed $37,956.64 to his Canada Trust RSP in 1996. In 2019, as he approached retirement, he inquired about his RSP only to be told it was gone.
"The bank owed a trust duty to Bob to ensure Bob was kept aware of the status of his investments and failed to do so," according to Grossman's statement of claim.
Grossman concedes he didn't regularly check on the status of his RSP, but "was entitled to believe his investments were safe," according to the lawsuit.
"In not providing the funds to Bob in his RSP, the bank will have unjustly enriched from Bob's hard work and funds."
In its statement of defence, TD denies losing Grossman's money. The bank claims the money was withdrawn on June 29, 2000.
"After his withdrawal, the RSP was closed," according to TD.
"TD denies that [Grossman] has suffered any of the damages alleged," the court documents say.
Grossman claims he never withdrew the funds and the CRA has never taxed him on the withdrawal.
No independent watchdog
Duff Conacher, cofounder of accountability group Democracy Watch, says bank clients should check the status of their investments at least once a year.
But he also questions TD's ability to find only certain records relating to the disputed RSPs.
"For the bank to say 'We know we transferred it, but we don't have a record of where it is raises the question of how they know they transferred it. If they have a record of that, they should also have a record of where they transferred this money to," he told CBC News.
Conacher says most of Canada's big banks are avoiding accountability by essentially policing themselves when it comes to consumer complaints.
In 2015, the federal government allowed some banks to opt out of a publicly funded, independent dispute resolution system and use the ADRBO, which is funded by several banks, including TD.
"Consumers need an independent watchdog to go to that is not chosen by the banks and and obviously not chosen by the consumer themselves, and that person needs to be there in the middle who's with an independent look at every situation," Conacher said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Lancaster is a senior reporter with CBC News focusing on investigative and enterprise journalism. His stories have taken him across Canada, the US and the Caribbean. His reports have appeared on CBC Toronto, The National, CBC's Marketplace, The Fifth Estate-and of course CBC online and radio. Drop him a line anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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