Zero Tolerance approach to pension scams
It is rare for me to want to copy somebody else’s work, but Dalriada Trustees’ Neil Copeland wrote a very good piece on 20th December 2016 about three “hurricanes” which hit us this year: Altmann, Brexit and Trump. With an astonishing degree of imaginative and creative inspiration, Neil referred to this as being “as easy as A, B, T”.
It is probably fair to agree that Brexit and Trump came into the “cataclysmic tsunami” category when considering what possible effect both of these surprises might have on pensions. I think the answer is probably a resounding “don’t know”, but we do all – of course – hope it will be good, positive and helpful. Maybe even some of George Osborne’s dreadful “freedoms” damage might be repaired?
I particularly liked Neil’s quote that “one of the reasons Trump ran for president was that he was sick and tired of people laughing at America” The interesting parallel, of course, is that victims of pension and investment scams are sick and tired of the pension scammers laughing at regulators and law enforcement in the UK and offshore.
Neil also observed that Brexit may have been a bit of a surprise, but now nobody has a “Scooby” what the eventual end result will be. (Least of all the British government!). While we are used to our country being run by incompetent ditherers, we must all hope that Neil is right when he says there are some clear post-referendum messages for pension trustees and that these comprise of understanding liabilities, investments, sponsors covenants and developments. What Neil failed to do, of course, is mention that the offshore trustees in traditionally dodgy jurisdictions such as Malta, Gibraltar and Guernsey, will have a jolly good chuckle at this prediction. They will undoubtedly continue to ignore regulatory and due diligence obligations as they accept business from unregulated chiringuitos and see low-risk investors put into high-risk, toxic, illiquid funds that benefit nobody except the scammers.
Interestingly, Neil tackled the three hurricanes in reverse order, with A for Altmann coming last. He felt sure the red Baronness was a “lovely person” but believed she had undermined the credibility of the role of pensions minister. He reminded us that she had repeatedly refused to do anything about pension scams, referred to the victims as “fools” and claimed banning cold calling was too difficult. She also claimed it was “officials” who stopped her from banning cold calling (presumably the same officials who told her she couldn’t help the WASPI victims?). Perhaps Ros simply didn’t have a “Scooby” how to do it – and anyway preferred drawing pretty-coloured boxes. Altmann was subsequently quoted as saying that it was unacceptable to say the government couldn’t bring in a cold-calling ban. She clearly feels happier being outside the tent.
Neil commented that now the Government has announced it is going to ban pensions cold calling, perhaps Ros feels a little silly. And if she does have the grace to feel humility for her failure maybe Richard Harrington will take up the challenge of undoing the damage she has done to the image of the pensions minister’s role.
I think 2017 will have to focus on many challenges faced by Britain and the rest of the world. But for the sake of British citizens everywhere, I hope Brexit and Trump will result in some positive developments for the pensions and investment world. I also hope that Harrington and the whole of the DWP will at last take seriously their obligations to sort this unholy mess out once and for all. We need a ZERO TOLERANCE APPROACH and must stop fannying about with weak regulation which is not fit for purpose.
I hope everyone who is interested in helping rescuing the pension industry and pension scam victims will respond to the government consultation:
I also hope that all concerned will explain to the government that regulatory and law enforcement failures have led to many scammers repeatedly coming up with new ways of making fortunes out of victims and fools out of regulators. The chiringuitos have profitably built up huge portfolios of ruined British citizens in the UK and are now happily scamming away offshore with help from firms in Gibraltar, Malta and the Cayman Islands. Zero tolerance is now the only option.