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Providers and administrator clash over pension liberation concerns

Providers are blocking transfers to a pension scheme administered by Manchester-based Warwick & Eaton due to concerns the firm could be involved in liberation activity.

Aviva, Friends Life, Legal & General, Scottish Widows and Standard Life are all refusing to allow members to join the SCCL scheme set up by Warwick & Eaton in August last year.

Warwick & Eaton has referred 14 complaints to the Pensions Ombudsman against the providers in relation to blocked transfers. Warwick & Eaton denies either director Paul Hesketh or the firm have any involvement in pension liberation activity.

A Warwick & Eaton spokesman says: “The SCCL scheme has never been used for pension liberation and we never intend to use it for pension liberation.

“We have tried everything possible to get the providers to release the members’ money but they just will not co-operate.”

The spokesman says the scheme’s investment strategy is “adventurous” and focuses primarily on unregul-
ated assets.

In January, Warwick & Eaton received a letter from HM Revenue & Customs confirming it has no evidence the SCCL scheme is being used for pension liberation.

HMRC added the letter should not be relied upon by providers and urges ceding schemes to carry out their
own checks.

Aviva and Friends Life both say that, following due diligence checks, they have declined a number of transfer requests but cannot comment further while the Pensions Ombudsman cases are ongoing.

L&G corporate head of regulatory change Colin Clarke says: “We have written to HMRC for information, including confirmation that SCCL has registered pension scheme status. Once we have received that information, we will contact the customers concerned regarding the next steps.”

Scottish Widows and Standard Life declined to comment.

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