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Reduced payout of cold comfort to PMS investors

Anger has been expressed after it emerged that savers with the collapsed Presbyterian Mutual Society will get some of their money back by the end of next month — but only those who have invested more than £20,000.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church has revealed that he has been contacted by a woman who cannot afford to pay for her late husband’s funeral and a single mum of two who faces losing their home because they ploughed their savings into the doomed company — neither of whom can currently claim back a penny.

Those known as “loan holders” will get a payout of 12p for every pound they invested in the first payout since the PMS went into administration in November 2008. Smaller investors, or shareholders, are not entitled to a payout following a court ruling.

While smaller savers have expressed concern about the latest development, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church said that the PMS is “not the basket case some people think it is” and that being taken over by a larger financial institution would be the answer to savers’ prayers.

“The commercial option, where the Society would be taken over by a larger company, would guarantee all savers a return of their money and that would be the ideal scenario,” he said.

Denying that the beleaguered PMS would not be seen as an attractive acquisition, he countered: “The PMS is not the basket case some people think it is. There are attractive aspects to it. Using the commercial model the PMS could be in profit again in the next five to ten years.

“There is still a lot of property and assets and the commercial option could guarantee immediate access to all funds for all savers.”

However, he said that the current ‘Plan B’ being discussed at the Assembly may not provide such assurances to hard-up savers.

“Ideally we would like to see the details of ‘Plan B’ and what it can do for the smaller savers, who are undoubtedly suffering more than anyone because of the crisis.

“The level of anxiety and worry is huge.

“I am in contact with a woman who lost her husband and she cannot afford his funeral, a single mother of two children who faces losing her home because they invested their life savings in the PMS.

“Hardship funds are available, but the church doesn’t have massive financial resources.”

One saver, Stephen Riley, voiced his anger at the news, which as well as giving nothing to shareholders, would only give a return of £3,600 to someone who invested £50,000.

“Are we supposed to clap our chubby little hands in glee over 12p?” he asked.

“Everyone seems to be blaming each other.

“I invested with PMS for a reason.

“If I wanted to make money I would have invested it somewhere where there was a higher risk. I invested it with PMS because I was told it was safe and low risk.”

“Maybe I was naive, but should we keep being kicked in the crotch over our naivety?”

While Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said he was not prepared to comment on the news, his party colleague and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said urgent action was needed.

“We are all very aware that the current government is not long for this world and we need to press ahead quickly for a solution in the limited time we have,” she said.

“The news is very disappointing for large scale savers and even more so for those who invested smaller amounts.”

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