19 Comments

  1. Dave Leuchars
    August 2, 2018 @ 12:07 pm

    Thanks for this, very informative piece. The Ombudsman puts a lot of weight on the Scorpion campaign in February 2013, but do you think now they may at least entertain similar claims from before then? I’d argue the campaign didn’t give them new duties, just reminded them of the duties that, as trustees, they already had in place.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      August 4, 2018 @ 9:40 am

      @Dave That’s an interest argument, however other Ombudsman determinations have ruled out cases prior Feb 2013.

      But I agree with you. Trustees have, and always have had, a duty of care which it seems they just do not understand – in ANY jurisdiction! It is a meaningless mantra that they completely ignore. Not only do they ignore it when they hand over 1000’s of pensions to scammers, but when they get called out, they blame the victim! They refuse to own the duty of care that they sign up to as providers.

      Do you blame the patient for taking harmful medication that was wrong for them, or the doctor with the duty of care for prescribing it?

      This ruling will see providers taking much more care and due diligence before transferring pensions in my opinion and will do more to protect future victims than all the “cold calling” bans promised by politicians trying to make a mark. This ruling could see providers having to reach into their pockets and there is no better motivation for getting things changed! I think this is a turning point in the fight against pension scams.

      All we need now are some convictions against the pond life like Ward (and many others) who orchestrate these scams. Then we might see an eradication in these vermin! They should be made to serve time! Such a pincer movement – attacking providers on the one side and scammers on the other – and we would see a) justice for current victims and b) a sharp reduction in future victims. This is the ideal.

      I feel this ruling is a giant leap in the right direction and was very brave of the Ombudsman for doing it and Mr. N for pursuing it.

      It is also good that the Police Authority are accepting the ruling and not challenging it in an appeal and having some judge overturn it as in Hughes v Royal London linked in the article above. Will it get challenged by other providers who find they negligently handed over pensions and have to compensate them? Who knows? I hope not or if it is, I hope any appeal by providers is not upheld!

      Hundreds of victims should be preparing their own cases already and seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel! I am looking forward to reading more such rulings against negligent providers who handed over pensions to scammers like sweets.

      Reply

      • Angie
        August 4, 2018 @ 10:17 am

        I think now is the time to mount a high-profile campaign against the widespread negligence, laziness and callousness of a wide range of ceding providers. This includes personal providers such as Standard Life, Prudential, Aviva and Scottish Widows, as well as occupational providers such as Royal Mail, Mercer, LGPS etc. Hopefully, organisations such as PASA http://www.pasa-uk.com/board/margaret-snowdon – who have given Royal Mail not just one but TWO awards for excellence – will bring pressure to bear and take these awards away if the providers don’t compensate their victims.

        Reply

    • Angie
      August 4, 2018 @ 10:21 am

      You are absolutely right Dave. Also, there were warnings well before Scorpion in 2013. The predecessor of the Pensions Regulator was OPRA and it was dishing out (albeit fairly limp) warnings many years ago – pre 2013. Also, HMRC was giving out stern warnings. I think we need to test some post 2013 complaints, and then move on to the pre-Scorpion cases.

      Reply

      • Stephen
        August 5, 2018 @ 5:49 am

        I could be the next test case against my ceding provider – Mercer who have admitted in writing they didn’t do any checks nor did they send me the Scorpion Pack but instead sent it to the scammers and asked them to pass it on – seriously? – and I have that in writing also! One person on twitter has repeatedly said this was standard practice if there was a Letter of Authority (“LoA”) on file however I have two counters to that argument:-

        a) The Ombudsman has already established the leaflet should be sent to members individually and failure to do so calls it maladministration but also believes third party administrators (TPA’s) should go further and engage in an open dialogue… and

        b) I was in an open dialogue with Mercer BEFORE there was an LoA on file because I first enquired, in Jan 2015, IF I could use the new pension freedoms from within the scheme I was in – i.e.no intention of transferring out at that time, and Mercer said no and told me (in writing) I would have to transfer OUT. That was the IDEAL time to alert me to the dangers of falling into a scam – already established within the industry – and provide the Scorpion Campaign material to inform me of the dangers of being scammed should I then choose to transfer out. They did not give me any such warnings.

        Furthermore, I have evidence that the LoA they subsequently received from the advisory firm seems fraudulent and should have been easily spotted by Mercer who after all are experts in an industry, that by then was well aware of the growing concerns from scams – the advising firm makes the claim on the LoA, dated Jan 2015, they were regulated by the Czech National Bank, but the CNB register shows they were not registered until May 5th 2015 – 4 months later. At the material time this was an untrue statement on the LoA that could have been easily checked by my ceding provider – they have admitted they did not. I hold this was yet further maladministration and I am confident the Ombudsman will agree.

        My case against Mercer, I feel, is even more compelling than Mr. N’s.

        Watch this space.

        Reply

        • Angie
          August 5, 2018 @ 11:17 am

          Part of the problem was that in many cases a “warning” was sent out by the ceding provider. But it was the “scorpion” warning and only talked about liberation. People who had no intention of liberating tended to disregard it as they thought it didn’t apply to them. And this was AFTER I had warned the Pensions Regulator about the weakness in the scorpion warnings (and was told to eff off by Andrew Warwick Thompson and his two lawyers).

          Reply

          • Stephen
            August 5, 2018 @ 11:40 am

            Like Dave said earlier, trustees and TPA’s were not limited to Scorpion either before or after Feb 2013 and a key phrase in the Ombudsman’s ruling is “I consider that [the Authority] should have done more” and suggests they should have engaged in an open discussion to learn more about where the money was going. In my case Mercer could have asked why I was transferring to a QROP and informed me how “scams” have operated in the past by investing in UCIS’s once the money is offshore …. the education costs nothing but would have informed me I was walking into a possible scam. I got zero from mercer, not even the Scorpion warning or links to where I could find such information.

            This “doing more” could be used not only to counter Mercer’s – and other’s – reliance on there not being legislation in place at the material time to do “anything” let alone more, but could also be used against TPA’s prior Feb 2013 who will rely on there being no “Scorpion” guidelines … it’s the “doing more” than just the minimum – which Mercer didn’t even do that – that leaves other cases open to very possible success.

            I feel this ruling is basically telling providers it’s time to step up and own their duty of care, not just chant it like some mantra.

      • Kevin Hadlow
        August 15, 2018 @ 6:54 pm

        I transferred my police pension into Ark before 2013.

        I wrote a letter of complaint to the police authority ( I think I used a template from Angie?) and they replied with a letter giving their reasons why they felt they were not liable.

        I didn’t pursue it any further at the time but perhaps now could be the time.

        Reply

        • Angie
          August 15, 2018 @ 7:21 pm

          We applied to the Pensions Ombudsman a couple of years ago to have pre-Scorpion complaints heard and we were turned down. But, now I think the time has come to revisit that refusal and have another crack at getting justice. Antony Arter, head of the Pensions Ombudsman, is an ex pensions lawyer with Eversheds. I think we should go to him and seek his acceptance of pre-Scorpion complaints. Will you be willing to be the lead case as the recent determination was also in respect of a police pension – transferred into a scam run by the same scammer who ran Ark two years earlier.

          Reply

  2. Stephen
    August 2, 2018 @ 5:08 pm

    This is without doubt one cracking account of the scam Mr. N was a victim of and of the Landmark ruling by the Ombudsman. This paves the way for many victims who were failed by their providers that had not only a duty of care but also an obligation to the Pensions Regulator’s campaign (named Scorpion) to protect their members from the increasing number of pensions scams springing up like weeds.

    I expect Angie, now to overwhelm the Ombudsman with dozens of similar cases that warrant the same ruling against negligent providers that failed in their duty of care and rely on the excuse “there was no legislative requirement to go the extra mile” (see Ombudsman ruling para 96).

    There must be a shed load of providers shaking in their boots at the prospect victims will unleash a torrent of complaints against them! I will for one!

    This is a cracking precedent and victims should heave a sigh of relief that finally the Ombudsman is on their side!

    Carpe Diem!!!

    There is light at the end of the tunnel!!!!

    Reply

    • Angie
      August 4, 2018 @ 10:13 am

      This is indeed very good news – and no reason at all why all 97 of the other London Quantum victims shouldn’t have their complaints upheld. Plus all victims of other scams – whether run by Stephen Ward or not.

      Reply

      • Dave Leuchars
        August 6, 2018 @ 4:28 pm

        Very good news indeed, outstanding work from everyone involved, particularly Mr N himself!

        I have a couple of clients who transferred their pensions to another classic in the genre, the Henley Retirement Benefit Scheme. I’ve been looking at them for months trying to find some sort of way to get their money back- they’ve clearly been treated terribly, and at least now this may give us something to go at, where previously I just kept running up against brick walls.

        Reply

  3. Mr N
    August 4, 2018 @ 3:39 pm

    The key points are that the ceding provider did nothing to make me aware of any potential issues. Scheme run by dormant employer and did not signpost or send me scorpion warning. If they had given me this information the decision would not have been in my favour. Good luck to others in seeking justice. I am working hard towards criminal action and a crown court case against “introducer” company scheduled for September. Happy to help others if I can.

    Reply

    • Angie
      August 4, 2018 @ 7:28 pm

      Thanks Mr N – we are all very proud of you. I know how hard you worked to achieve this wonderful result – as well as how much it has cost you. Such a shame an innocent victim had to fight for so long for justice. Now all we want is to see the scammers behind bars and the world will be a safer place.

      Reply

    • Stephen
      August 5, 2018 @ 9:39 am

      A criminal case against the introducer firm I assume is “Viva Costa International, an unregulated introducer of work to independent financial advisers” named in the above text?

      However, this won’t do much to jail the architect of this and other scams – Stephen Ward.

      I also believe the FCA should take action against Gerard Associates for categorising you as a “sophisticated” investor. There is a clear, unambiguous definition in the legislation of “sophisticated” and “High Net Worth” and consequently they should not have done so.

      Any plans for these also?

      Reply

      • Found Him
        August 5, 2018 @ 11:33 am

        Ward should not be hard to find. Here he is with his team next to the lady in the green dress at the front.

        https://www.aesinternational.com/about/team

        Reply

        • Angie
          August 5, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

          I think Ward is kind of busy right now – he has increased his luxury Florida villa portfolio from 6 to 10 and I think he spends quite a lot of his time out there enjoying a care-free life. After all “Ark is history” – and so are Capita Oak, Westminster, Evergreen, Southlands, Headforte, London Quantum and all the other scams he was running.

          Reply

          • Stephen
            August 5, 2018 @ 2:13 pm

            Here’s the issue. To maintain such a lifestyle the income has to continue flowing IN. You can’t maintain 10 Florida villas without money – and lots of it coming IN. I would argue “historic” scams are insufficient – you need current ones.

            Therefore there HAS to be current ventures which bring in sufficient income to continue the lifestyle. The conclusion is obvious – MORE VICTIMS being created as we speak!

            Where are they and how do we stop them? Not a dissimilar situation and question for Tweedledum & Tweedledee!

            If we can frustrate “new/current” ventures the current costs of their lifestyle starts to bite when they can’t meet their bills! That’s what I think is causing Vilka to act so desperately to shut you up! http://pension-life.com/david-vilkas-vile-us-attorney/

          • Angie
            August 5, 2018 @ 2:15 pm

            Never heard a dickybird from that one-bit so-called attorney. He probably went back to his day job (emptying bins perchance?)

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