A director of Hartley Pensions, the provider subject to a new business ban, has been criticised for emailing Sipp clients with claims the FCA had put the value of their pension funds at risk.
Yesterday (November 23), Tony Flanagan emailed all members of pension schemes administered by Hartley Pensions saying the firm’s entrance into administration in July has posed an “imminent risk” to the value of clients’ pension funds.
In it, he also accused the FCA of "aggressively" pursuing a policy that would harm members' pensions.
Flanagan’s claims have sparked "panic" among scheme members according to other pension firms, such as SeaBridge, and were even branded as “inaccurate” and “incomplete” by Hartley's own administrators, UHY Hacker Young.
The FCA has also said the communication contains "factual inaccuracies" which may have caused concern.
FTAdviser understands clients have been contacting the FCA since the letter was sent in a panic over their pension funds, concerned they could lose thousands in savings.
Flanagan alleged that “as a direct consequence of interventions of the FCA”, the directors were “ultimately given no choice” by the regulator than for Hartley Pensions to be placed into administration.
This led Flanagan to surmise: “There may be an imminent risk that the value of your pension at Hartley Pensions Ltd will be reduced and that funds within your pension scheme will be used to fund administration and liquidation costs.
“If this occurs, it will have a real and significant impact on the value of your pension scheme.”
UHY Hacker Young Chartered Accountants hit back at Flanagan’s letter saying it was not approved by them and they have said they will contact all clients "shortly".
In an update on its website, UHY Hacker Young labelled the letter “factually incomplete and inaccurate”.
The administrators have therefore told clients the letter “should not be relied upon”.
In a statement, the FCA said: "Customers’ existing pension assets are currently unaffected by the firm going into administration. They are held by trustee firms, which are not regulated by the FCA and have not entered into insolvency. Pension assets cannot be removed without appropriate consent.
"It is for the administrators to determine how the costs of transferring customers’ Sipps to alternative regulated Sipp operators should be charged.
"However, if any deductions are required to be made from customers’ Sipps, then the administrators will be required to make an application to court and any fees would be subject to the oversight of the court."
UHY Hacker Young has not been able to secure a sale of Hartley’s Sipp business, despite what it called “extensive efforts”.
The administrators said they were in the process of structuring a court-approved plan to transfer out clients’ Sipps on an individual or bulk basis.
“It is not expected that this process will conclude prior to the first quarter of 2023”, they said, adding that Hartley’s small, self-administered pension schemes will be sold in the first quarter of next year to another operator.