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Pension misselling scams- when will they ever end? – Page, Henderson, Freer and Ward X 2

The 308 pages of the Upper Tribunal’s decision in the ghastly references brought by Andrew Page, Aiden Henderson, William Freer, Thomas Ward and Robert Ward hammer home a terrifying message. Sending people to consult an independent financial adviser is not necessarily the right thing to do. These individuals basically diverted huge numbers of people’s pensions into a variety of unregulated worthless investments.

The peddlers of these products essentially sold an advice process to those so-called “independent” advisers so that they could con innocent consumers into their scam products. The idea horrifies. Page, Henderson and Freer then held themselves out as offering a whole of market service and then sign off on their customers passing their money to a series of products far too high risk and complex for them to analyse let alone recommend.

The sales process involved inadequate fact-finding and a near automatic recommendation of the products concerned. Henderson who did not have permission to carry out pension transfers from employer final salary schemes broke this on an admitted 19 occasions.

The decision does contain a worthy attempt at analysing investment risk, based on Robert Lockie’s expert evidence. I have known Rob for a long time and cannot image many better equipped to lead the Tribunal from the traditional zero risk product of short-dated government debt through the various gradations of risk. Reading the decision brought back fun memories of my and Roger Grenville-Jones’ adventures in Gibraltar with the van Geens v Jyske Bank case.

There is also a valuable reminder on the T Ward reference of the evils of shadow directors who exercise a degree of influence that is unhealthy without being approved by the regulator. I have experience of a reputable law firm doing that and escaping untouched. So, it is not just ex-convicts like Ward that do this type of thing.

The SIPP provider involved should be taking a dark look at itself and perhaps be paying out large amounts of compensation to investors whom it helped to lose their hard-won retirement income.

Inevitably, attention also turns to the regulator. The authorisation process left a great deal to be desired in this case. However, the decision reveals that a number of the adviser firms involved told a variety of fibs and half-truths to the regulator which did not make the Financial Conduct Authority’s job any easier. The IFA sector should be very low priority for the authorities. Unfortunately, the range of bad apples involved here and in similar cases such as the Tailor Made case of Alistair Burns does not help. There are better people behind bars.

Finally, it would be good to know why the individuals concerned thought that it was good idea to refer their cases to the Upper Tribunal. The FCA has finally learnt to claim interest on its fines. So, delay is not bringing down the effective cost of the amounts concerned.


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