Optimum Capital referred to TPR over breach of fiduciary duties

Optimum Capital has been referred to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and ordered to pay the complainant £2,000 by The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO), after it breached its fiduciary duties.

The complainant, ‘Mr E’, referred Optimum to TPO after it failed to act on his pension transfer request.

TPO, Anthony Arter, said that there was “no evidence of any genuine attempt to transfer Mr E’s pension” between April and October 2018.

Optimum was criticised by the ombudsman for the same issues in 2015, and Arter said that the “fact that the same issue remained unresolved several years later was a significant breach of Optimum’s fiduciary duty”.

Mr E requested to transfer from Optimum to his preferred pension provider in November 2017 and signed the transfer declaration in April 2018, which was acknowledged by Optimum.

Optimum said the request was being considered by its legal advisers later that same month, but there was no progress in the months leading up to October 2018, despite attempts by Mr E to hasten the situation, so Mr E referred the case to TPO.

On 17 October, Optimum resigned as the scheme trustee and appointed a professional trustee, before issuing a formal response to TPO saying: “As we had no scheme administrator since the suspension of Tudor Capital Management Limited and we worked hard with our pension lawyer to appoint a new trustee.

“PO-23185 3 Optimum Capital Ltd is simply provider of the scheme and I have strictly no competence, skills and professional qualifications in the field of pension funds.”

TPO noted that a new trustee and administrator were appointed in October, but that they should have been in place much sooner, and if Optimum had acted appropriately the transfer could have happened much sooner.

In his decision, Arter concluded: “It is unacceptable that such a fundamental flaw in the scheme has been allowed to continue for so many years.

“Without an effective administrator, the members are prevented from making important decisions in relation to their pensions.”

Furthermore, he said that if, as the Optimum representative claimed, it had no competence, skills or professional qualifications in regard to pensions, it should not have offered its services as a scheme provider and trustee.

He ordered Optimum to pay Mr E £2,000 for the “exceptional distress and inconvenience” caused and referred TPO’s findings to TPR.

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