The Scorprion Campaign and Henry Tapper

Scorpion Campaign and Henry Tapper

The Scorprion Campaign and Henry Tapper

The Scorpion Campaign was the Pensions Regulator’s attempt to warn the public and the industry against pension liberation scams.  It wasn’t a bad try, but it failed.  It was a bit like trying to stop a herd of stampeding elephants with a whoopee cushion.

Henry Tapper, pensions actuary and dedicated blogger on pensions, posted this:

The problem is that many pension trustees don’t take any notice.  They didn’t back in 1999 when HMRC and tPR (then OPRA) first warned trustees about pension liberation fraud.  They didn’t in 2003 when the first two liberation fraudsters – Steve Russell and William Ferguson – were jailed.  They didn’t in 2010 and 2011 when the huge tide of Ark and Tudor Capital Management transfer requests into bogus occupational schemes were processed without so much the tiniest flicker of curiosity or interest.  They didn’t in 2012 when 300 transfers into Capita Oak were made – even though the sponsoring employer didn’t exist.  When the Scorpion Campaign was launched in February 2013, the trustees carried on making transfers into Capita Oak and the sister scam, Westminster (with the same non-existent sponsoring employer).

Now here’s the puzzling thing: didn’t the Pensions Regulator notice that their Scorpion Campaign was failing?  Usually, when time, effort and money are invested in an important project, there is some sort of measuring process deployed to see how effective and successful the project is and to examine whether any improvements or reinforcements are needed.  Clearly not in the case of tPR and Scorpion, because the same old same old scammers were allowed to keep registering pension schemes and becoming trustees and administrators of “occupational” scams obviously designed to defraud innocent victims.

Don’t take my word for it though.

In particular, the regulator issued a damning assessment of the scheme’s former trustee, Dorrixo Alliance, and its director Stephen Ward.

So, didn’t anybody at the Pensions Regulator (or HMRC for that matter) notice that Stephen Ward had become trustee of the doomed London Quantum “occupational” scheme (now in the hands of Dalriada Trustees)?  Didn’t the memory of Ark, Evergreen, Capita Oak, Westminster and dozens of other liberation scams run by Ward and Dorrixo ring any bells?  Didn’t London Quantum’s address: 31 Memorial Road, Worsley cause a sharp intake of breath?

The answer to all of the above is, of course, a resounding “no”.  The Scorpion Campaign’s warnings were ignored 96 times in 2014 in the London Quantum case.  Negligent, lazy and incompetent trustees handed over a total of £6.8 million to an obvious scam which had all the hallmarks of Ward’s handiwork – including the fact that it was registered to Ward’s UK address.  But not a single one of the trustees heeded tPR’s Scorpion warning – including the trustees of the Police pension scheme.

My advice to the Pensions Regulator, is to put the whoopee cushion away.  It doesn’t work.  The stampeding elephants are too big and too determined.  And don’t just knit a bigger whoopee cushion either – ban cold calling and put the scammers behind bars.  Then spend some money on advertising (after all, the government found £10m to spend on the Remain campaign – which was arguably a complete waste of money).

And by the way, the Regulator’s “dressing down” was a complete waste of time.  It might just as well have been a formal dressing gown for all the effect it had.

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