TPO upholds complaint against Hampshire LGPS after transfer scam

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has upheld a complaint against the Hampshire County Council pension scheme over its failure to carry out due diligence before transferring a member’s benefits to a scam pension arrangement.

The council has been ordered to reinstate the complainant’s accrued benefits, or provide equivalent benefits, adjusting for any revaluation that has occurred since the transfer.

‘Mrs H’ complained to TPO that the council did not fulfil its due diligence obligations before it transferred her benefits from its scheme to The Focusplay Retirement Benefits Scheme (FRBS).

FRBS was a scheme run by Gleeson Bessent Trustee Services, which was wound up by the High Court in 2017 and its owner, Roger Bessent, was found to have transferred more than £280,000 of pension funds to support his own businesses and investments.

She was concerned that her entire pension fund may have been lost or misappropriated after her £26,000 of savings were transferred to the scheme in November 2013.

The council argued that it had fulfilled its duties in protecting Mrs H from pension fraud and scams, but TPO found that the council’s failure to conduct further due diligence before making the transfer “amount to maladministration”.

TPO decided that, if not for the council’s maladministration, Mrs H would not have proceeded with the transfer and suffered the financial loss as a result.

Alongside the reinstatement of benefits, `it has been ordered to pay the complainant £500 “to reflect the significant distress and inconvenience that Mrs H has suffered”.

The LGPS scheme has 28 days to fulfil the orders from the ombudsman.

In its determination, TPO stated: “To put matters right, the council shall reinstate Mrs H’s accrued benefits in the fund, or provide equivalent benefits, adjusting for any revaluation that has arisen since the transfer and allowing for any lump sum that Mrs H has already received from the scheme.

“To avoid ‘double counting’, the council will be entitled to recover from Mrs H the amount of her pension fund that in future the trustees of the Scheme are able to retrieve for her, if any.”

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