Dear Mr. Manduca
As you are the Chairman of Prudential, and in light of the recent POS determination in respect of a Capita Oak victim’s transfer out of Prudential and in to a scheme which was clearly a pension liberation scam, I feel it is important to bring to your attention the significance of the Ombudsman’s decision for Prudential, dozens of other ceding providers, and for the thousands of victims of pension liberation fraud.
The Pensions Ombudsman feels there should be a distinction between the culpability/negligence of transfers made by ceding providers pre-tPR Scorpion campaign and post. I disagree very strongly, and believe that if you allow this precedent to impact on the defrauded members of Prudential, this will also allow other ceding providers (your competitors) to escape responsibility for failing the thousands of members who have fallen victim to scams such as Capita Oak. This will impact severely on the credibility of not just Prudential but the whole industry and Britain’s ethos of saving for a pension.
The Pensions Regulator was issuing warnings about pension liberation fraud back in 2009. But in 2010/11, Prudential allowed dozens (at least) of transfers into Ark. Following tPR’s action (placing the six Ark schemes into the hands of Dalriada in May 2011), and a high-profile High Court ruling by Justice Bean which declared Ark to be a “fraud on the power of investment”, Prudential do not appear to have improved their due diligence at all.
HMRC state that “members and pension providers would have been aware of warnings/tax consequences in early 2012 (to pension liberation scams) as there were sufficient warnings and publicity available within the public domain from regulator websites, such as HMRC’s, the Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority and a number of pension provider websites.”
And yet, in 2012/13, Prudential transferred at least 28 members’ pensions totalling more than £829k to the Capita Oak pension liberation scam. Around half of these were post Scorpion. (Scottish Widows, by comparison, transferred more than £750k into Capita Oak and half of this was post Scorpion.)
Also in 2012/13, Prudential transferred at least £383k to another pension liberation scam: Westminster. Most of this was post Scorpion. Prudential was beaten only by Scottish Widows who transferred more than £485k to Westminster – all of it post Scorpion.
In none of the transfers did Prudential seek confirmation that the members were genuinely employed by the sponsors of Capita Oak and Westminster. Had they done so, they would have found that both schemes had the same spurious “employer” (a non-existent company in Cyprus) and the same administrator: Imperial Trustee Services Ltd.
Prudential also failed to spot that both these schemes’ transfer administration was handled by Stephen Ward’s company Premier Pension Transfers Ltd at 31 Memorial Road, Worsley (with Ward’s Spanish firm Premier Pension Solutions SL being a tied agent of AES Financial Services Ltd, an FCA-regulated firm). A little more gentle digging with a very small spade would have found that Ward was the principal promoter and administrator for Ark.
In researching the Ark, Capita Oak and Westminster members’ files, I can find no evidence that Prudential did any due diligence at all in respect of any of the transfers. Prudential asked no questions of the members or of the administrators of the schemes. Prudential asked for no copies of the trust deed or the scheme accounts or evidence of the sponsoring employer. There is no evidence in my possession that Prudential’s transfer due diligence improved at all post Scorpion.
In response to one of my complaints to Prudential in respect of a transfer to Ark, Prudential’s Customer Relations Specialist Yvonne Kewell wrote on 7.3.15: “I can assure you that all appropriate checks were done before we transferred the fund. We followed the correct process as required at that time”.
If Prudential’s “appropriate checks” and “correct process” between 2010 and 2013 were to fail to heed tPR’s warnings as far back as 2009 and beyond; ignore advice widely available in the public domain in early 2012 (according to HMRC); neglect to adhere to the Scorpion checklist in 2013, then what possible faith can the public have in Prudential or indeed the rest of the industry?
To my knowledge, Prudential have transferred well over £2m in members’ funds to pension liberation scams (and that’s just the ones I know about). Operated by the same scammers. In the same manner. To the same effect for the victims: poverty in retirement and crippling tax liabilities which may result in homelessness.
Prudential’s Ms Kewell’s concluding statement reads: “I hope my letter explains our position”. If Prudential’s position is that it is acceptable to fail its members and ignore warnings/advice widely available in the public domain over a four-year period, then perhaps that redefines the term “customer relations”?
Prudential has a once-only opportunity here to emerge from this series of debacles as a shining example of how a leading pension provider should respond to valid complaints of negligence. If Prudential sets a conscientious example and compensates the victims voluntarily (notwithstanding the POS determination above) then all the other providers will have no option other than to follow suit.
I have thrown down the gauntlet. I look forward to your early response. You and Prudential can either emerge as a hero or a villain, since I can assure you there is a determined and highly-organised campaign to bring ALL negligent ceding providers to justice in respect of negligent transfers to pension liberation scams. With a compliance and legal team the size of Huddersfield, I sincerely hope that Prudential will now elect to become a hero amongst the depressing tide of ceding providers who have sought pathetically to justify their failings in thousands of negligent transfers to obvious scams.
Regards, Angela Brooks – Chairman, Ark Class Action and Pension Life