Lighthouse Group  

Lighthouse on the wrong end of 34 complaints this year

Lighthouse on the wrong end of 34 complaints this year

The Financial Ombudsman Service has upheld 34 complaints about pension transfers into Sipps against a Lighthouse arm this financial year.

Only two such complaints have not been upheld – meaning 94 per cent of complaints were found in the consumer’s favour.

The Fos is also in the process of investigating a further 21 complaints about advice to transfer into a Sipp.

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The complaints all relate to the Falcon Group, which became part of Lighthouse following their merger in 2008.

They relate to advice given between 2003 and 2008 to invest in a number of different vehicles, but the most predominant were Merchant Place funds.

Other investments recommended were Stirling Mortimer and Splash Broadcast Ltd.

In the most recent Fos decision against Falcon, it was ordered to compensate a client it advised to transfer the value of their protected rights into a new Sipp.

The pension was then transferred into a new Sipp which could accept direct investments in unlisted companies in April 2009 and £30,000 was invested in Splash, which later went into liquidation without any return to the client.

Terry Connor, the ombudsman in that case, said in his ruling: “I have not seen persuasive evidence to show that Falcon could or did separate its authorised activities from the promotion of the unlisted investment.”

In another case Falcon advised a man to increase the mortgage over a business property and take a pension commencement lump sum, leaving him with £250,000 his Sipp which it recommended he invest in Merchant Place 65.

Lesley Stead, the ombudsman in this case, said in her ruling: “To my mind, any investment in Merchant Place 65 would have exposed [the client] to an unacceptable concentration of risk at the higher end of the spectrum.

“I consider that he shouldn’t have been advised to invest in Merchant Place 65 to any extent. Falcon’s advice was unsuitable.”

Earlier this year Lighthouse announced profits were up by 50 per cent for 2015, reaching £900,000.

Consolidator AFH made an aborted attempt to buy Lighthouse in March, which was rejected by the company's board.

A spokesman for Lighthouse said: "Various Falcon customers invested via their Sipps into commercial property related  investments and in the main prior to Lighthouse acquiring the Falcon business.

"This relates in the main to a period a decade ago. The property investments failed in the great crash 2008/2009 and the clients have raised issues via a block notification to FOS, hence the volume appearing as adjudications in one distinct year, albeit the investment period spanned a number of years pre- and post-2006.

"The process is well defined at Fos and Lighthouse will simply follow the process laid down, Falcon itself has not traded for over four years."