Hartley Pensions director criticised over 'scaremongering' email

SeaBridge Ssas director Nathan Bridgeman has criticised Flanagan's letter for "scaremongering", saying it was "self-serving and causes unnecessary panic and concern" for scheme members".

He added: "It’s very disappointing that this email has been sent to all Hartley's clients regardless of their contract (Sipp or Ssas) or underlying trustee company.

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"We have received many calls from anxious clients currently in the process of transferring from Hartley's to ourselves."

Hartley director takes aim at FCA’s ‘hard line’ 

Hartley, which provides Sipp services to white-label platform provider Hubwise, is wholly owned by Wilton Group.

In March, the City watchdog told Hartley it could no longer accept new clients and a restriction was placed on new business. In August, the FCA confirmed Hartley had entered administration.

The author of yesterday's letter, Flanagan, has been a non-executive chair of Hartley since 2015, and is also a trustee director.

He said Hartley received “a very positive review” as recently as October 2021 from the FCA following the regulator’s visit, and that the Sipp operator had “taken on pensions at risk at the behest of the regulator”. 

The letter went on, however, to add: “For some reason that situation changed around February 2022.”

When Hartley fell into administration, Flanagan alleged Hartley was solvent on a cash flow and balance sheet basis, and prior advice was that the company “should be properly marketed and sold as a going concern in order to protect members’ interests”.

He went on: “The issues that arose at Hartley were easy to correct and in no way merited the hard line taken by the FCA that has now resulted in the administration of the company and will in due course lead to the liquidation of Hartley and the potential raid on your pension scheme. 

“The FCA appears to aggressively pursue a policy that can only lead to the detriment of pension scheme members.”

Flanagan said the intention was for Hartley to be sold before the FCA’s intervention in March. After that, which the Hartley director said led to a meeting with an interested party and the FCA, the potential sale allegedly “fell apart”.

“No sale has occurred whilst the administrators and their advisers continue to incur the unnecessary costs of a trading administration,” said Flanagan.