This week sees the appeal process begin in the court case between pension provider Options SIPP UK (formerly Carey Pensions UK) and Mr Russell Adams.
Dubbed a “landmark SIPP case” it began in 2018 when Adams took Carey Pensions to court for SIPP mis-selling. He argued that they were responsible for the losses to his pension and should not have accepted his business.
The Judge ruled in favour of Options SIPP, but Mr Adams was allowed the right to appeal.
However, this initial judgement has not had a detrimental effect on our Financial Ombudsman decisions, in cases that are on a similar basis to that of Mr Adams, as we found out last week…
That’s right! Since the Adams V Carey case we have now received a positive final decision from The Financial Ombudsman against Carey’s (Options SIPP UK) on behalf of our client Mr S.
Like Mr Adams, Mr S invested in Storefirst through a Carey SIPP though an unregulated firm named CL&P.
CL&P were an unregulated introducer company based in Spain. They cold called Mr S and persuaded him his pension would be better off if he transferred it.
Mr S didn’t realise that CL&P were a marketing firm who received commissions from investment companies for “advising” people to move their pension.
Whilst accepting business from an unregulated introducer was not against the rules, it seems many red flags against CL&P were not picked up and acted on promptly by Carey’s. These include an FSA warning advising not to do business with CL&P’s director Terence Wright, as well as CL&P offering financial incentives to clients to invest.
Whilst the Ombudsman did acknowledge that Carey’s had carried out some level of checks on CL&P it described them as “reactive” and done in a “piecemeal” way and noted that they were carried out after they had already accepted business from them.
Storefirst was a high-risk investment involving the purchase of storage units. They offered a guaranteed level of income during a set period, after which investors could either sell the units or take whatever income they provided.
Initially some investors did receive returns of 8% but the payments subsequently stopped and investors found it difficult to sell the units.
Carey’s did run checks on the suitability of Store first and began accepting the investment in their SIPPs in June 2011 via Harley Scott Holdings.
However, the FOS investigation uncovered that in August 2012 Carey suspended its acceptance of the investment due to “concerns about the administration and system and controls of the investment provider ‘
The suspension was lifted in September 2012 and they continued accepting business into the investment until April 2013 when they stopped altogether.
Store First was the subject of a winding up petition issued by the Business Secretary in 2017 and in April 2019 Store First Limited and three associated companies were ordered to wind-up in the public interest.
The FOS make decisions about disputes between customers and financial companies based on what is fair and reasonable. They also take into account the law, codes and good practice including principles set out by the FCA.
We examined the case and all the surrounding details of Mr S’s pension transfer and assessed the necessary information to identify the relevant breaches in the FCA’s principles. We then used these to challenge Carey’s treatment of our client. The FOS concluded that the principles set out by the FCA were relevant to the complaint and subsequently addressed and agreed with these when making their Final decision.
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