Pension transfer specialist criticised for failing to advise

The trustees were Title Trustees Limited and the investment was medium to long term with no redemptions available for the first four years. 

Green Footprint Investments would redeem the original investment adding 5 per cent. 

There would be a fixed investment return which was contractual. 

Mr G signed an application form to join the scheme in July 2012. 

This asked him to declare that he was a director, officer or employee of the company which established the scheme; or that he was seeking consent of the provider of the scheme to join the scheme. 

Mr G gave the ombudsman a copy of a letter from ACMA to ‘Mark’ confirming that an interest payment of £82.74 gross had been paid into the scheme. 

This payment had been received from ‘EcoQuest PLC which was the nominated investment within the Green Retirement Pension Plan. 

When Mr G had recently divorced and thinking about accessing his pension fund he contacted the unregulated firm he first spoke to and was told that the person with whom he had been dealing with had left the company. 

Mr G was also told to contact the Serious Fraud Squad. 

They told him to contact Green Trustees who informed Mr G that the Green Retirement Pension Scheme was a fraudulent arrangement and was largely worthless. 

They also said his transfer value hadn’t been invested in the Para Sky Plantation Project. 

Mr G then asked the ombudsman to consider his complaint. 

He was told by the ombudsman that they couldn’t look into the unregulated firm’s involvement as this business was not regulated in the UK however TWS’s involvement could be examined. 

Fos informed TWS about Mr G’s complaint in April and June 2016. 

TWS objected to the ombudsman considering the complaint arguing Mr G hadn’t said in the complaint form that it was responsible for the advice plus he hadn’t referred the complaint to them first.

TWS pointed out the report confirmed to Mr G that no advice was given and they asked for evidence the scheme was worthless.

The adjudicator replied to TWS that Fos rules allowed the service to tell consumers who we thought was responsible for the complaint. 

In a final decision, ombudsman Roy Milne said TWS was required to comply with the regulations. 

He said: “When giving its advice it had to gather enough information to show that it knew its client. And it had to give suitable advice. 

“I don’t think TWS can avoid these obligations by limiting its role to only advising on the transfer. 

“TWS was required to give suitable advice. It is difficult to see how it could have given suitable advice without considering the investment to be made. Clearly the success of the transfer depended on the performance of the new investment.