BWFS Occupational Pension Scheme Determination
The BWFS Occupational Pension Scheme Determination has now been published on our ‘Previous decisions’ page. The case involved complaints made by members regarding the BWFS Occupational Pension Scheme (the Scheme).
The basis of the complaints is that:
- the applicants are unable to access their pension funds;
- the Trustees have failed to administer the Scheme; and
- the applicants are concerned that their pension fund has now been lost or misappropriated.
After an extensive investigation carried out by the Pensions Dishonesty Unit, the Ombudsman has upheld these complaints which involves redress of over £850,000 against Mr Michael Stanley and Mr Paul Green, who were the Trustees of the Scheme.
The Scheme was established in May 2013, with Mr Stanley as sole trustee. Mr Green was later appointed as sole trustee in February 2014, but Mr Stanley remained heavily involved. Both Mr Stanley and Mr Green were directors of the Scheme’s sponsoring employer, Black & White Financial Solutions Ltd. (BWFS) which was unregulated and stated the nature of its business as ‘Pension funding’ at Companies House.
BWFS had purchased details of potential clients and contacted them offering a ‘review’ of their pensions. If accepted, BWFS informed the clients of the Scheme and provided them with an Information Pack that outlined a ‘Cash Rebate Pension Strategy’. This indicated that members would receive commission payments from the investment companies, equal to 20% of their pension, and a fixed return of 3.5% per annum. The 15% commission paid to BWFS as a result of these investments was not disclosed to the members.
Between August 2013 and September 2014 inclusive, members transferred into the Scheme, with a recorded total of £768,685 of funds. However, an aggregate total £858,679 was invested in the form of unsecured loans to, at the time, a recently set up property development company, and an overseas company that listed foreign exchange and contracts for difference as part of its investment strategies. No written advice was taken in relation to these investments.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaints finding that the Trustees had committed multiple breaches of trust and many acts of maladministration, which had caused the likely loss of the members’ pensions. Included in this finding was facilitating a form of pension liberation.
The Ombudsman has directed the Trustees to pay back to the Scheme, the aggregate total of sums invested, less the current value of the loan agreements, and any sums paid to members which have been evidenced, plus interest. The Ombudsman has also directed the Trustees to make payments to the Applicants, in respect of their severe distress and inconvenience caused by the Trustees’ maladministration.
What happens next?
The Applicants and Respondents have been notified of the Determination, which is final and binding, subject to appeal to the High Court on a point of law.
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