PASA is discrediting occupational pension schemes. On the 28 January 2016, PASA (Pension Administration Standards Association) issued a press release. They were pleased to announce that they wished to award Royal Mail with their accredited standard. Basically meaning that PASA considered Royal Mail, as a trustee for thousands of pensions, to be worthy of PASA’s accreditation. Royal Mail was the first organization to achieve this accreditation.
Looking at the PASA website there are a few interesting points to note about the organization.
1. PASA ‘exists for a single purpose: to promote and improve the quality of pensions administration services for UK pension schemes.’ http://www.pasa-uk.com/about
2. PASA was ‘set up as a not for profit organization and a membership-only organization – run by members for members’ http://www.pasa-uk.com/about
3. Then on exploring their website more, they do not have their standards of accreditation online, despite referencing these on the press release.
Royal Mail is a huge organization with 1000’s of employees with the enviable final salary occupational pensions. Royal Mail are trustees of these pensions. In the last few years Royal Mail released many of these final salary pensions to pension liberation scams. 100’s of people were affected by this and lost those precious pension funds. This scandal is well documented and the pension liberation victims are still trying to retrieve those lost funds. This Is Money wrote about it here: The salesmen were smooth talking – and promised juicy profits. But now savers are asking: Where are our missing pension millions?
In fact Royal Mail were the worst offending trustee in the ARK case where millions worth of pensions were essentially lost. Royal Mail also allowed many pensions to be transferred to Capita Oak, another bogus pension liberation scam.
Royal Mail, as a pension trustee, are obliged to act in the best interests of the members and it was a violation of their code of conduct as a trustee to hand over pensions to obvious scams such as Capita Oak.
Press release from PASA:
28 January 2016
Royal Mail becomes first PASA member to achieve reaccreditation
The Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA), the independent body dedicated to driving up standards in pensions administration, today announced that Royal Mail is the first organisation to achieve PASA reaccreditation, two years since first achieving the gold standard – the first in-house administration team to do so.
Margaret Snowdon, Chair of PASA, commented: “The reaccreditation process is an important part of our ethos at PASA and vital to the ongoing standards of administration across the industry. A point in time assessment is only at its highest credibility for a limited time and to ensure standards don’t slip we will only award the PASA stamp of approval to organisations for two years. With PASA Accreditation being championed by the TPR because of the high standards it demands from administrators, we welcome the fact that Royal Mail has undertaken the process again and that its clients and members will continue to benefit from all that PASA Accreditation offers.”
Mike Hitchins, Operations Manager at Pensions & Severance at Royal Mail HR Services, said: “The benefits of having PASA accreditation were clear from the outset. Alongside it being a public recognition of the quality of our operation, it also demonstrated to our clients and members that we are providing them with a first class service, delivering better outcomes and it identified aspects of our process that bring them increased value. Undergoing the process again is our commitment to our continuous improvement. We are very proud to be the first reaccredited member of PASA.”
The Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) has been created to provide an independent infrastructure which will set, develop, guide and assess administration standards.
PASA will act as a focal point and engage with industry and government to create protocols for understanding good administration – but also appreciates there is no one size that fits all. PASA will develop evidential accreditation practices which will allow benchmarking across and between the industry regardless of how the administration is being delivered.
As well as raising the profile of pension administration generally, PASA will focus on three core activities.
- Defining good standards of pensions administration relevant to all providers, whether in-house, third party or insurers
- Publishing guidance to support those standards
- Being an independent accreditation body, assessing the achievement of good standards by schemes (regardless of provider)
There is no organisation providing such services across schemes, yet there is a demand for evidence of service quality from scheme trustees, sponsors, administrators, insurers, scheme members and regulators.
About PASA Accreditation
PASA Accreditation is open to all corporate members of PASA (DB, DC, trust-based and contract-based schemes). PASA Accreditation is granted following an independent evaluation and assessment process, which includes on-site visits and the review of documentation to evidence controls, procedures, process, staff development and contractual positions with clients.
Full details on PASA can be found by visiting www.pasa-uk.com
Full details on PASA Accreditation can be found by visiting www.pasa-uk.com/13/standards-of-accreditation
For all PASA media enquiries please contact KBPR using the details below:
07930 442883 │ firstname.lastname@example.org
07739 025528 │ email@example.com
Pension Life Chair, Angie Brooks wrote to Margaret Snowden:
Dear Ms Snowdon
I have just seen a tweet announcing that PASA has renewed Royal Mail’s accreditation for pension administration standards. Also, I see that your accreditation service is “championed” by tPR.
Had you engaged with the Ark Class Action you would have known that during 2010, 2011 and 2012, Royal Mail handed over many dozens of their members’ pensions to pension liberation scams such as Ark and Capita Oak. This clear negligence resulted in the financial ruin of their members, the loss of £millions of hard-earned pension funds and crippling tax liabilities.
Royal Mail ticked boxes when they received transfer requests. They did zero due diligence; they asked not one single member whether they were employed by the sponsors of the Ark/Capita Oak schemes; they ignored all the warnings widely available in the public domain since 2003 about pension liberation scams. Subsequently, they have had the temerity to reject complaints by the ruined members.
May I respectfully suggest that you withdraw Royal Mail’s accreditation with immediate effect, until and unless they agree to properly compensate the numerous victims of their extreme callous negligence to their numerous members. May I also suggest that the Pensions Regulator should immediately revisit their decision to “champion” any kind of accreditation which is clearly given out to negligent pension administrators who have done nothing to compensate their members who are financially ruined due to negligence and complete ineptitude. This sends out entirely the wrong message when rogue pension administrators receive “accreditation” which is wholly offensive to the many victims.
PASA must do their homework and familiarise themselves with the worst performing pension administrators so this kind of anomaly does not happen again. This is extremely offensive to the victims. I will be pleased to share with you the details of the worst offenders so that they can be encouraged to compensate their victims and certainly not ever given any kind of “accreditation” until and unless they have done so.
Regards, Angela Brooks – Chairman, Ark Class Action
… And Snowden wrote back fully confident the accreditation of Royal Mail was worthy.
I refer to your email in connection with PASA’s re accreditation of Royal Mail Pensions. I am sorry you find it offensive that the RM team has successfully demonstrated that its current administration performance merits accreditation by PASA.
PASA’s accreditation scheme is independently assessed by a well-respected audit firm, who check through inspection and site visits that what is claimed by administration service providers is fully evidenced and supported. The PASA accreditation system, developed in 2012, is unique in that it focus on real outcomes and not just written processes. It is not easy to achieve.
It helps to assure pension scheme trustees that their administrator achieves high standards across a range of measures. PASA’s key aim is to raise standards of administration and the Pensions Regulator is supportive of our endeavours in this.
I cannot comment on particular dispute cases, but I do know that RM takes protecting members from liberation scams very seriously. Unfortunately many schemes paid transfers to what subsequently turned out to be scam arrangements and considerable effort is going into dealing with the fallout.
PASA itself has been at the forefront of the fight against pension scams with the creation of the Pension Liberation Industry Group, which I chair, and the publication of the Combating Pension Scams Code of Practice for schemes last year.
Pensions scams continue to evolve and we try to help ensure trustees and their administrators feel confident enough to challenge potential scammers and at the same time honour an individual’s right to transfer, a delicate balance. As a result, due diligence is much stronger today. In summary, RM has worked hard for PASA accreditation and has satisfied our independent auditors about their operational standards.
I am confident that RM fully deserves the accredited status and it would be wholly inappropriate to withdraw it.
Angie Replied to Snowden once more pointing how Royal Mail had rubbished so many peoples’ pensions
The ‘offensive’ part is that the although PASA find the RM Team worthy of the accreditation, many Royal Mail pension scheme members hard-earned funds were handed over to scams so casually in a clear “box-ticking” exercise. These victims of Royal Mail’s clear negligence have now lost most, if not all, of their pensions and are facing poverty in retirement and financial ruin in the short term due to unauthorized payment charges by HMRC. You state that PASA’s scheme uses a ‘well respected’ audit firm. Who is this firm that have failed to find what should have been clearly on Royal Mail’s own records? They also fail to recognize that complaints have been made during the past year about their negligence. It should have been obvious that nothing had been done to put right the damage done to a large number of members.
It sounds very impressive that, as you say, the PASA accreditation system, developed in 2012, is unique in that it focuses on real outcomes and not just written processes. When it was developed, what measures were put in place to ensure that victims of negligence were compensated? And to what extent did PASA ensure that negligent practices of the past were corrected? How are these outcomes measured? What steps are taken to ensure negligent trustees put their failings right? How does it address negligent “box-ticking” transfers to obvious scams such as Ark and Capita Oak? I note that PASA’s key aim is to raise standards of administration and the Pensions Regulator is supportive of our endeavours in this. However since many scams were registered as “occupational” schemes by tPR, without checking for fraud or performing any kind of due diligence, tPR is likely to support anything that can help!.
You state that ‘you know that RM takes protecting members from liberation scams very seriously’ yet you ‘acknowledge many schemes paid transfers to what subsequently turned out to be scam arrangements’ and go on to say ‘considerable effort is going into dealing with the fallout.’ In fact the RM did nothing to protect members in 2010, 2011 or 2012, and has done absolutely nothing to put their failings right up to the present time. I am afraid you are completely mistaken. RM have made zero effort to deal with the fallout whatsoever. They have denied liability and rejected complaints by the victims of their clear negligence.
I welcome the ‘Combating Pension Scams Code of Practice’ from your PLIG(what is this?), but it has completely missed out the compensation of victims issue. Once a trustee’s past negligence and mistakes becomes clear, the trustees must put this right – and your Code of Practice should have made this clear. The delicate balance trustees face is what they are paid, and more importantly entrusted, to do. It is their job; their profession. In many cases the trustees and administrators did absolutely nothing that there was any kind of balance – delicate or otherwise. They just ticked the boxes and handed the pensions over to obvious scams.
You state, in summary, that RM has worked hard for PASA accreditation and has satisfied our independent auditors about their operational standards, but what, now, can be done about past negligent box-ticking approach to transfers? What will the RM do to put matters right for their many financially-ruined members? Can you truly be confident that RM fully deserves the accredited status when there has so clearly been so many disastrous errors? HMRC have made it clear that it was pension trustees’ responsibility and legal obligation to carry out due diligence and that there were sufficient warnings in the public domain since 2009 to ensure transfers to scams were avoided. In fact, there were warnings going back as far as 2002 which were widely ignored by so many trustees and administrators. To accredit one of the worst offenders surely discredits the acreditation…….. what is more surely it is sending out entirely the wrong message to the industry.
Can you identify the independent auditor?
Can you explain how they missed the outstanding complaints, or at least the fact that they had not been addressed?
How are these outcomes measured?
What ‘real outcomes’ has the PASA accreditation created to;
-ensure that victims of negligence are compensated?
-ensure negligent trustees put their failings right?
-that negligent practices of the past were corrected?
And finally, can you faithfully claim that the RM truly deserve the PASA accreditation without addressing the failings of the past, and moving forward by helping their ruined former members practically, within the industry, at a regulatory level and financially by way of compensation?