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Adviser trade body raises funds for Sipp legal battle

Adviser trade body raises funds for Sipp legal battle

Adviser trade body Libertatem is seeking donations from advisers to help towards the cost of Sipp provider Berkeley Burke’s appeal case against the Financial Ombudsman Service (Fos).

The group is helping to form the provider’s legal case as well as seeking tens of thousands of pounds in donations from advisers and other Sipp providers.

In October 2018 Berkeley Burke lost its fight against a decision from 2014, in which the Fos ruled the Sipp provider had to compensate a client after it failed to carry out adviser-style due diligence on his investment. 

The High Court’s dismissal meant the ombudsman's ruling stood, but in February 2019 Lord Justice Hickinbottom of the Court of Appeal granted Berkeley Burke the permission to appeal the ruling, claiming the decision was potentially one of "considerable and wider importance within the industry and for customers."

Garry Heath, director general at Libertatem, said it was in advisers’ best interests to put their support behind this case as if the Fos wins, the precedence set could be used against advisers in the future.

But he also disclosed that Libertatem offered to help because Berkeley Burke’s IFA arm is a member of the trade body.

Mr Heath told FTAdviser he did not yet know what vehicle will be used to collect the donations but he was working with legal professionals to try and get the service up and running in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Heath said: “We are currently trying to assemble how it will work, for example, supporters could pay into our advising fund and then the proceeds could be transferred over. We are still working on the mechanics of this.

"We are looking to raise tens of thousands of pounds which I have no doubt that the lion’s share of this will come from individuals in the Sipp industry."

He added: “The problem with a case that defines a principle is that if the principle is established and it is able to be applied to an adviser or provider as an individual then there is a chance that they may be killed off.

“But as a collective the industry can help each other fight against this principle.”

Due to this, Libertatem has contacted advisers to make them aware of the case and calling for their support. Sipp providers are likely to be contacted by Berkeley Burke.

Mr Heath revealed that Berkeley Burke had formed its own legal case and put forward ideas, but due to having experience supporting previous judicial cases, Mr Heath said he wanted to help the cause by raising extra funds and also contributing to the legal case.

In future Libertatem is keen to help other Sipp providers too but it wants to focus on this case first, Mr Heath told FTAdviser.

He said: “I have no doubt that there will be other conversations with Sipp providers off the back of Berkeley Burke.