The ruling relates to a Police officer who transferred his Police pension out into a new scheme where he fears that the money (in the words of the ruling) ‘may have been lost or misappropriated’. The Ombudsman decided that the Northumbria Police Authority had failed the Policeman in two ways – they failed to send him the official anti-scam ‘Scorpion’ literature prepared by the Pensions Regulator and they failed to do proper checks on the pension scheme into which the money was being transferred.
A particular issue was that the receiving scheme – an occupational scheme called ‘London Quantum’ – had been set up relatively recently and it should have been obvious that a Northumberland police officer was unlikely to have a work relationship with a London-based occupational scheme. The Ombudsman ruled that the Police scheme was guilty of maladministration and ordered them to reinstate the police officer’s pension rights as far as possible. Whilst an Ombudsman’s ruling relates only to a specific case, this ruling shows that schemes have important responsibilities towards their members, not only in alerting them to the risk of scams but also in performing proper checks on the receiving scheme. It is possible that scam victims who have complained to schemes and been turned away might now find that they get a chance of redress via a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman.
Commenting, Steve Webb said:
‘This is a very important ruling. Whilst individuals obviously have a responsibility to take good care of their pensions and to take proper advice, this ruling shows that pension schemes also have important duties to protect members. Not only should they flag the risk of scams, but they should also be undertaking thorough checks about where the money is going to be transferred to. It might be the case that some past victims of scams who have complained to a pension scheme and been turned away could still get redress if the Ombudsman thinks that their scheme trustees did not do a proper job in protecting them’.
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