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February 6, 2023

Pension gaslighting and Economic Abuse – Ms M shares her story

Pension gaslighting and economic abuse are sadly factors in some pension mis-selling cases. This mis-selling story shows how pension gaslighting can come from those closest to us.

Ms M came to us in May 2019 distraught and distressed.  She had made a complaint before coming to us but that complaint had come to a dead end. We listened to Ms M and said we would investigate her case.

The adviser claimed that they had no involvement with the unregulated investment. Based on the evidence the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) had, it said the adviser was not responsible for the investment into the unregulated investment. The unregulated investment in Car Parks was worthless.

Our investigations found some information which turned Ms M claim around. We found something that suggested the adviser hadn’t been entirely honest with the FOS.

We gathered all the evidence that clearly showed the adviser was very much aware and involved in the unregulated investment, which we submitted to the FOS.

The FOS investigated further and we are pleased to say we got the successful outcome Ms M deserved!

Ms M wanted to share her story to help others who’ve been affected in a similar manner by pension gaslighting…


Pension Gaslighting – Ms M’s mis-sold pension story

It’s true to say, you could call me someone who was never that ‘good’ with money. I never really understood the workings of finances.

However, from a young age, I worked hard and worked myself up the career path as a PA in London.  All of my jobs had pensions and over the years I would check their values and in some cases, put them into one pension. I was mindful enough to know what I had in pensions.

At the age of 32 I met a man and we fell in love.  He and I had separate finances. Money seemed important to him and he certainly did not seem to trust me with his money!

What I did not realise was that I was in a controlling marriage. My husband hid the control well but subtle put downs over the years kept me in my place.  In 2002 we started a business together, distributing a skincare brand that I had been using in the USA. I even said that the aesthetics industry would take a hold in the UK like it had in the US. Turns out my predictions were to come true.

As the business grew, my husband was very keen to grow his pension pot.  That did not seem like a bad thing but I did not get involved, as I was busy running the business which was growing very quickly. We were under resourced and under financed and that often meant that long hours were worked by both of us.

In around 2008 my husband engaged the services of a financial advisor who worked with my husband to grow his pension plan. About a year in, a lot of money was lost.

I was devastated as was my husband. Very quickly, the owner of the business, at least he was the owner at the time, started to visit my husband. He had also been embarrassed at the loss and agreed to personally handle my husband’s money.

My husband’s advisor used to visit us regularly

In fact, as my husband’s portfolio grew, we even dined with him in London accompanied by this partner.

I share this, as it is all relevant to my story. I knew my husband’s financial advisor and his girlfriend on a personal basis.

In 2010 my husband’s financial advisor and my husband, suggested we look at my pensions, of which I had many, to see if we could a) combine them and b) grow them.

It was also agreed that rather than paying me the salary relevant to my role as a director of my own business, dividends would be paid into my pension to boost it.  I was kept on a low wage.

I recall specifically that visits seemed to become more frequent from my husband’s advisor.  He was often in the property we worked from. To be honest, I used to feel quite annoyed.  Our business was run on a tight ship, resources were stretched, and I was working flat out.

I kept saying to my husband that rather than trying to make us richer and richer, perhaps we should look at simply selling the business, being humble in our needs from life, and retire to somewhere like Dorset, where we could have a lovely home and both take easy jobs.

We were already in an enviable financial position compared to some and I felt the strain was taking its toll mentally on both of us.

My husband did not want to do that, and in fact, he kept taking on more and more brands to grow our portfolio.

In 2013, we decided the time was right to sell the business and we very quickly found a buyer.

I was happy but, at the same time, everything ‘felt wrong’. I could not put my finger on it

It was crazy, with secret meetings, hidden from the staff and our business, at the same time, skyrocketing in terms of success.  Selling the business involved secrecy from us as we employed over fifteen staff and our distributors would want to know who would be handing their brands. This was not a small transaction.

In around the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013, I was invited to the London offices of the advisor for lunch with my husband and our accountant.

I was sat in the boardroom, and my husband’s financial advisor, sat opposite me. He talked me through my portfolio.

To be fair, I was in a ‘flight’ state by then.

I did not realise at the time, but my husband was about to become ill and I was on stress alert all the time.

The only thing I do recall him asking me and putting a form in front of me, was the form that asked if I were a high, medium or low risk investor. I remember telling him firmly that I was a low-risk investor, in fact, I remember thinking that I wanted to invest in ethical pensions and risky/non ethical pensions did not sit right with me.

In 2013, I recall, one Friday, the phone had not stopped ringing. I was completely stressed by this time, the business was too much, and throw in the negotiations and late-night working, I felt like a broken woman.

This particular day, my husband had, yet again, another meeting with the Financial advisor. They mentioned they had found a wonderful deal that would make us a lot of money. I will be honest; I was so annoyed and even chucked out some ironic comment about the deal. It sounded ‘dodgy’ and unsafe and I was more concerned about customer’s needs.

We had demanding clients, some of the most famous aesthetic clinics in London and demands were high.  Every call was urgent and needed an immediate response.

For the last year or so, it had felt like my husband had taken his eye off the business, he was more interested in a growing pension and talk of money.  I was working until 7pm most nights, I was beyond tired and felt stressed all the time, I could not think clearly as things seemed off kilter.

I do not recall signing any paperwork with regard to this ‘investment’

But frankly, I trusted my husband as I did not ‘do money’.  Any investment was ‘his’ money or so I thought.

In 2014, my husband and I moved very quickly after completing the transaction of selling our business.  We were out of London in three months. It was a whirlwind and we had no time to think.

In truth, our marriage had been strained for many years, seeming, instead, like a business partnership. The move to Dorset was to be the death knell.

In 2016, we split amicably, or as amicably as we could. However, instead of instructing a lawyer, my first instinct, I was told that would cost money and everything would be done amicably using my husband’s financial advisor as mediator.

An amount was put on the table and I was happy. As negotiations started, everything seemed to be awry.

The amount I was told I would get, had now changed.  Also, part of the sum was now in a pension. I was not unhappy and although I was accepting a lesser amount, I just wanted it all over and done with. In any event, I had my pension and that was good.  I felt comfortable as it made me feel safe having a pension.

I was devastated when I was told that one of the ‘investments’ had indeed, gone ‘wrong’

In 2016, with us separated, we both moved away from our marital home.  I moved my pension away from the financial advisor my husband used. It made sense to do so.

I instructed someone whose name I had been given. He seemed lovely. We met in 2016 to go through what I had in my pension.

I knew the amount I had been told was there, so I was devastated when I was told that one of the ‘investments’ had indeed, gone ‘wrong’.

I now had £150k less than I thought I had. The ‘pension’ that my ex-husband and financial advisor had been discussing, the deal that I had indicated was ‘dodgy’ was, in fact, my pension and not my husbands.

I felt so foolish and I felt sick. My money and a big chunk of my settlement for a sixteen-year marriage and twelve years of hard work, had now gone.

Without my verbal consent and without any form of discussion about an unregulated pension, my money was put into a high-risk investment without my knowledge. I say without my knowledge, I felt sick when I found paperwork with my signature clearly on it. I had no recollection of signing it and certainly did not know it was MY pension that was being invested.  I even had paperwork to show I was a low-risk investor.

I was advised to try and have my case looked at and wrote myself to the Financial Ombudsman, putting my case as best I could. After eighteen months I was told that the investigation could not continue. This was because the MD of the firm, someone I had only met briefly once and who I had not even had a meeting with, said I would hardly have known my husband’s advisor, would never have had a meeting with him (which I did) and that I was an astute business woman, capable of making her own financial decisions.

In fact, she indicated that had I met him in passing, he probably would have chatted to me and offer to make me a coffee!

Talk about gaslighting me. This made me question my reality and my recall of what actually happened.

But deep in my heart I knew I was right.

As I said, I had never been good with money and pension were a minefield to me. My husband and his financial advisor had handled everything and although there was a third party who handled my pension, I never interacted with her at all.  I couldn’t even tell you what she looked like!

I remember I sat on my bed in my new flat. I had had to close my little business and sell my house in Lymington and downsize. I remember crying my eyes out. I googled miss-sold PIP’s and came up with Pension Claim Consulting.

Maybe the stars were aligned that day, as it was to be the best phone call I ever made.

I recall a very long conversation with lots of sobbing from my end and a listening ear from the person on the other end.  I said that I had been in a narcissistic mentally abusive marriage and I explained what had happened, even confessing that I had signed over the paperwork to make the transaction happen.

Pension Claim Consulting have fought my case tooth and nail, I cannot believe how amazing they have been.  They have kept me informed regularly of updates and I have felt incredibly safe in their hands.  In fact, I have felt all the way through, that they are on my side and I have felt supported.

Good news – The Financial Ombudsman has upheld my case

I had some good news, in January 2022, I was told that the Financial Ombudsman has upheld my case and found in my favour. I was beyond happy.

Sadly, the MD of the financial firm has the option to deny the complaint and ask for a re-investigation. Luckily, this time, we have all the paperwork that is needed, that being the hardest part of the case, as the necessary paperwork to prove that I had not made the decision myself to invest and that the decision had been made for me by parties, who were interested in making a lot of money quickly, using my pension.

I am confident of a successful outcome as I know, without a doubt, that I was misled and at a volatile time in our business, when negotiations and tension was at its highest, it would have been easy for anyone to sign anything without a thought, trusting the party who put that paper in front of them.

I kick myself for being so stupid, but it’s been a learning for me.

I am not sure what I would have done without Pension Claim Consulting, they have been a rock for me over these five years.

As for those of you who are reading this and feel your story is familiar, my advice is never give up. I share this story as I want to help those who have been similarly affected in this manner and whose mental health has been affected not only being within a narcissistically abusive marriage but the fallout from that. It takes time to get over the shock.

Have you been affected by Pension Gaslighting?

Ms M’s story shows how pension gaslighting can happen in close relationships with people you trust such as a spouse or a “friendly” adviser.

If you think you may have been a victim of pension gaslighting or economic abuse and want to know if, like Ms M, you can make a claim for pension mis-selling. Get in touch.

Our free & confidential assessment can tell you if we think you have a case to claim compensation.

We can even arrange a consultation outside office hours at a time that is convenient to your circumstances.

Important Information!

You are not required to use our services to pursue your claim. You can also seek further advice or shop around subject to any time limits within which a claim must be made.

It is possible for you to present the claim for free, either to the firm or person against whom you wish to complain or to the statutory ombudsman (Financial Ombudsman Service or Pension Ombudsman Service) or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, whichever is applicable to your claim.