Hyperlinks on this page:
- PDF Documents open in a single separate window/tab.
- Other Web Pages open in separate windows/tabs in three categories: Personal Pension Fiasco, Army Pension Fiasco, External.
- Internal Links (including those in the graphics above) open in a single separate window/tab.
On this page and its two linked websites, I provide proof (including the full correspondence) of the following:
- (Personal Pension Fiasco) criminal misconduct by Scottish Widows, and its even more criminal cover up by The Pensions Ombudsman.
- (Army Pension Fiasco) gross negligence and generally cavalier behaviour by Equiniti Paymaster over a small preserved pension. In general, contemptuous treatment by a bunch of idiots.
Bad as the problems with my army pension were, they are a sideshow next to those with my personal pension. Among other abusive customer treatment, Scottish Widows is guilty of imposing draconian documentation demands for pension encashment under the blatant false pretence that they
are required under UK legislation. Although SW never stated it, this refers to anti-money laundering regulations, which require no customer due diligence whatever in this case with face-to-face identification and an ongoing business arrangement. TPO refused to investigate, and instead imposed a
pragmatic solution on the complainant that would allow Scottish Widows to maintain its false pretence and escape justice. And there is evidence of a deal between the two to protect Scottish Widows.
The Entrenched British Pensions "Industry"
Pension providers and agents such as Scottish Widows and Equiniti Paymaster exploit a captive market free from any concern for market-driven quality (no business could exist in a competitive marketplace with the practices of these two companies). People putting money into pensions (voluntarily, or through being pushed into workplace pension schemes) are either in no position to choose their pension provider, or even if they are, have no means of knowing how the company will treat them once it is their turn to receive the money.
Nor it seems, is there any spur to acceptable standards in the form of effective regulation and oversight, as evinced by deceitful complaint information and a catalogue of contemptuous treatment by both Scottish Widows and Equiniti Paymaster. Both the Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority denied any responsibility for dealing with clearly-documented criminal misconduct by Scottish Widows; I was referred to Action Fraud, which is beyond negligent and serves only the fraudsters. And if you are looking to raise public awareness of what is going on (and thereby help promote better standards) by posting facts to the well-known British "consumer" forums on Money Saving Expert, be prepared to be shot down in flames.
One is therefore left with The Pensions Ombudsman (and/or The Pensions Advisory Service) to deal with the inevitable abuses. TPO has a statutory duty under the Pension Schemes Act 1993/2017 to investigate and determine pension administration complaints impartially in accordance with the law. But first, you must complete an Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (for occupational pensions) or receive a Final Response (for personal pensions). This gives the pension provider carte blanche to impose abusive policies, as if the customer complains, there is plenty of opportunity to "put things right" (for that particular customer) to avoid any issues - this is how many dodgy businesses operate in the fringes of the law. And, as the IDRP must be conducted by post, for those living overseas it may be a non-starter (it certainly would in my case, as post from the UK can take well over three months to arrive here). Also the complaint must be against the appropriate layer in the scheme (there may be up to four), and it may not be easy or even possible for the complainant to find out which applies.
But if you do manage to bring your case before TPO, my experiences indicate that a complaint that could threaten a pension provider will be buried without trace. There are particular concerns over the conduct of Anthony Arter (the current Pensions Ombudsman), who with shares in 22 pension providers and a background as a solicitor acting for such companies, could hardly be less suited for a position in which impartiality is paramount. Mr Arter has been able to implement numerous "reforms" that should raise eyebrows among those who give them even the least consideration, and their compliance with the Pension Schemes Act is highly questionable. His machinations are clearly aimed at undermining TPO transparency and accountability; including pushing "informal" resolutions that leave no record, and will not be subjected to legal or public scrutiny. And the published changes are only the tip of the iceberg.
In my case, after a year of what was clearly deliberate delay and prevarication, TPO refused to carry out its statutory duty to investigate and determine a complaint that would result in prosecution and have other very serious consequences for Scottish Widows if brought to justice. The core of this case is fraudulent evasion of pension encashment, but it also involves a litany of other dishonest and cavalier customer treatment. Instead, TPO imposed a quite absurd
pragmatic solution through the Adjudicator (Barry Berkengoff, who left TPO within a few weeks of his second attempt to force this), to enable SW to escape justice and maintain its false pretence. And this charade to sustain Scottish Widows' criminal misconduct was not simply the work of a rogue individual; it is an ongoing conspiracy to pervert the course of justice that was continued a year later by the Casework Manager (Jane Stephens), and (after my fifth rejection of this and an explicit demand that my case be investigated and determined under the provisions of the Pension Schemes Act) terminated with an Opinion (by Jane Stephens), and an Amended Opinion and Final Determination (by Anthony Arter) in direct contradiction of documented facts.
The gross distortions, false statements, and inconsistencies from TPO in defence of Scottish Widows cannot be adequately expressed here (see Details TPO (03 October 2017) and onwards). However, of key significance is that the role of TPO is to investigate and make a determination based on the positions of both sides. As it was Scottish Widows that imposed the documentation demands at the core of this dispute, they should have been called upon to justify them. But this never happened; there is no statement from, or said to be from Scottish Widows giving any explanation whatever of why they were imposed. Instead, Jane Stephens and Anthony Arter acted as SW's advocates, giving at first sight similar, but in fact quite different (false) justifications for SW's measures. They also sustained their
pragmatic solution, even though TPO has no business to mediate, never mind impose such a
solution on the complainant. It is plainly obvious that TPO is purposely covering up criminal misconduct by Scottish Widows, and so is guilty itself of serious criminal misconduct. But as I am resident in Mexico, I am unable to appeal to the High Court (also the deadline was Bank Holiday Easter Monday - and the fact that TPO urged me to respond within a couple of days suggests that this was quite deliberately planned).
Moreover, it has become clear that this organisation (on which pension holders must rely for justice) is itself protected by the government from the public it is supposed to serve. The Pensions Ombudsman is accountable to the Department for Work & Pensions; but DWP has not acted on reports of TPO criminal misconduct made on two occasions (the second by an apparent whistle-blower at TPO - if so, the only honest individual out of many in TPO who clearly knew that criminal misconduct was taking place). And I have reported TPO criminal misconduct to the Metropolitan Police on three occasions, again without response or any action. So it has become clear that TPO operates above the law, being in the corrupt protection of these two organisations (and other government organisations were also evasive over TPO). The brazenness and evident unconcern of TPO staff when confronted with their own criminal misconduct demonstrates further that this organisation believes itself to be totally immune to any legal action against it. In short, TPO is a law unto itself.
Read the Epilogue page of my Personal Pension Fiasco website for more detailed analysis of how pension providers are able to hold pension holders to ransom, and indeed flout the law with impunity.
The Two Cases and Websites
This home page introduces the two comprehensive websites referred to above, which document with full correspondence my first-hand experiences. The first case is presumably non-criminal, but illustrates cavalier treatment by a government-connected pension paying agent that can do as it pleases (including refusing to make payments from circumstances that result purely from its own negligence and intransigence), with total impunity. The second involves the criminal misconduct by two organisations that I have referred to above.
In each case, I was denied payment, without any recourse to justice. Both Equiniti Paymaster and Scottish Widows are able to continue their abusive treatment without any penalty whatever (each time, they win - it is the pensioner who pays):
- Equiniti Paymaster delayed payment for several months, resulting in not only considerable inconvenience and stress, but also significant financial losses as a result of:
- having to prematurely liquidate funds on three occasions
- the exchange rate being much less favourable by the time I received payment than at the time payment was due
- inflation (Equiniti Paymaster paid only the numerical amount due, with no interest)
- Scottish Widows continues to hold my funds, to which I have no means of access (except perhaps, by agreeing to TPO's
pragmatic solution- but although my financial circumstances are parlous, I absolutely refuse to be party to criminal misconduct).
Army Preserved Pension Fiasco
My first experience of dealing with the UK pensions "industry" as a payee was in attempting to obtain my army preserved pension from Equiniti Paymaster. Payments of a gratuity and monthly pension were delayed for several months due to their gross negligence in producing a patently-ridiculous (and in fact quite unnecessary) country-specific bank details form, and (worse) their prolonged intransigence in refusing to accept the correct details that I supplied at the outset, despite my full and repeated explanations.
There were additionally investigations and exhortations by Veterans UK (the pension administrator), who were very helpful and realised that the problem was Equiniti Paymaster's form, but were apparently unable to prevail upon their contractor. This shabby outfit is also contracted by the UK government for payment of NHS pensions (which shares the same ridiculous bank details form for Mexico), amongst others. And, like Scottish Widows, this company issues seriously misleading complaint information, forces the use of post in response to emails, and makes unreasonable demands.
My preserved pension was due on 13 September 2015, and I sent my application by DHL Express Letter on 06 June 2015. Yet I received an acknowledgement of the bank details that I supplied at the outset only on 08 April 2016, and payment about two weeks later. This was just four days after I contacted TPAS; although TPAS made no mention of contacting Equiniti Paymaster, it seems likely that this is what precipitated payment, as it seems that Veterans UK had given up. There was some early delay due to the post, but negligence and intransigence by Equiniti Paymaster caused most of it. And after several years, this bank details form is still uncorrected.
Also, Equiniti Paymaster has no valid IDRP, only a two-stage pseudo-IDRP to serve as a red herring, which they indicate you must complete even before approaching TPAS. And their complaints information mentions neither the term IDRP nor the organisation TPO, thus diverting the complainant from this avenue. One is thus led down the blind alley of their two-stage complaints procedure, in which at each stage they undertake only to acknowledge receipt of one's letter within 10 working days (please read the complaints information from the above link). How can The Pensions Regulator consider this acceptable?
Scottish Widows Personal Pension Fiasco
Bad as all the above is, it is eclipsed by fraudulent evasion of pension encashment plus cavalier and deceitful customer treatment by Scottish Widows, and an even more criminal cover up by The Pensions Ombudsman, in my failed application to take a lump sum from my personal pension plans. Instead of fulfilling its statutory duty to investigate and determine my case, TPO imposed a
pragmatic solution in blatant protection of Scottish Widows (but I would not be party to this criminal charade applied on four occasions, even though in need of funds).
No sane individual would do any kind of business with Scottish Widows in the light of the facts I report and summarise below; and it is a cautionary tale about putting money into pensions in general. Scottish Widows is also involved in payment of army pensions, and clearly has other close associations with the UK government, being part of Lloyds Banking Group.
Provable Criminal Misconduct
Both Scottish Widows and The Pensions Ombudsman have committed criminal acts, for which I have the clearest evidence. It is therefore shocking that my numerous efforts to get justice have resulted in no action whatever under the law (check the Summary of Main Issues below for Action Fraud, The Metropolitan Police, the Department for Work & Pensions, and others who appear to be protecting these organisations). If the following were brought to justice, certain people from both Scottish Widows and The Pensions Ombudsman would be spending lengthy periods in prison (and pensioners would get a considerably better deal).
For imposition of draconian (and in my case, impossible to satisfy)
identification and verification requirements for pension encashment, under the blatant false pretence that they
are required under UK legislation. This could only refer to Anti-Money Laundering regulations; although this was never stated by SW, it was later acknowledged by TPO to be about AML. But the government requires no verification of identity where there is an ongoing business arrangement, never mind identification (which is done only to establish and record an identity).
This is only the core of a morass of cavalier and deceitful customer treatment by SW, and would have very serious consequences for SW if brought to justice, or to the attention of the general public.
The Pensions Ombudsman
For imposition of a
pragmatic solution (a ridiculous charade to allow Scottish Widows to escape justice and maintain its false pretence) in evasion of its statutory duty to investigate and determine the above.
This gross and brazen violation of the Pension Schemes Act 1993/2017, with clear connotations of collusion (plus evidence of a lucrative deal) in protection of SW, follows a year of deliberate delay and prevarication, broken only by my interventions. This is not simply misconduct in public office, but a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice involving senior TPO staff (including Mr Arter).
The lack of response from the above organisations when I challenged them over their criminal misconduct is noteworthy:
- I sent a list of questions to SW on two occasions without response, to which they could have provided some satisfactory answers if there were any validity to their "verification" demands.
- Five emails that I sent to TPO following the introduction of the
pragmatic solutionon 03 October 2017 referring to their misconduct remain unanswered; they were evidently unable to contest my points over their corruption, collusion, lies, deceit, and evasiveness. The last of these was in response to an absurd follow up (email from TPO appended) to the Adjudicator's efforts to force the
pragmatic solution, sent over a year later. In this, I made an explicit demand that my case be investigated and determined under the provisions of the Pension Schemes Act.
- Only after this did I receive an Opinion followed by an Amended Opinion and Final Determination, in which Jane Stephens and Anthony Arter act as SW's advocates and self-appointed AML experts, in the absence of any explanations from SW or consultation with HMRC.
The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) was evasive on the matter of "verification", refusing to get involved on the grounds that they were not experts; they would not even forward SW my list of questions. I have reported Scottish Widows' misconduct to Action Fraud three times on two separate occasions (a year apart) with only a single standard fob-off response. I have also reported TPO and the Adjudicator to the Metropolitan Police on three occasions via both Twitter and a substantial paper report, again without any response or action. The Department of Work and Pensions has received a full report of the actions of both Scottish Widows and TPO on two separate occasions, but has again not responded or taken any action. Other parties have also shown evasiveness when confronted by the criminal misconduct from these two organisations (for example, The Pensions Regulator, and the Financial Conduct Authority).
And I have formed the impression that the British public are apathetic about the issues I present here, and unwilling to believe that reputable institutions like Scottish Widows and The Pensions Ombudsman could commit such abuses. They ought to check out the facts I present on my website and use their brains, rather than allow themselves to be controlled by such institutions.
Below is summary information on the criminal behaviour of Scottish Widows, and TPO, together with other issues. For further information with links to the most relevant correspondence, see Provable Criminal Misconduct by SW and TPO.
Summary of Main Issues
Everything that follows is from my own personal experiences as described above; so I can vouch personally for all my statements, and provide evidence on my website. This shows a pensions "industry" that has no regard for market principles; nor does it have proper regulation or oversight; nor does it have satisfactory complaints procedures - everything is loaded against the complainant. For detailed analysis of this, see the Epilogue page of my Personal Pension Fiasco website. These issues must surely have affected many others, but like me, it seems they have been unable to obtain justice.
- Equiniti Paymaster refused payment of my army preserved pension for several months due to their ludicrously-erroneous bank details form for Mexico (the fact that years later this form is still uncorrected demonstrates their total unconcern), and worse still their intransigent refusal to accept my repeated explanations and the correct details that I supplied at the outset.
- I reverted to Veterans UK (the pension administrator) on 22 February 2016, having given up trying to get through to Equiniti Paymaster. But although Veterans UK tried to help and stated that the problem was due to EQP's erroneous bank details form, Equiniti Paymaster remained adamant. It now seems clear that, far from being a contractor over which Veterans UK could prevail, Equiniti Paymaster has been imposed on Veterans UK by the government.
- Only after several months of financial difficulties and worrying that I would never receive any pension, was there an out-of-the-blue acknowledgement of my details and subsequent payment
after much going back and forth(LOL). This unexpected resolution appears to have arisen from my contacting TPAS (although only the timing suggests this). I had no hope of completing an IDRP (see below), and no hope of any kind of redress.
- It is hard to see why the government pays money for old rope in contracting Equiniti Paymaster. Any idiot can make payments to a bank account, and people living overseas do not need a form replete with errors created by Equiniti Paymaster's
overseas banking teamto tell them what is needed to transfer funds to their account in their country. This is usually a single composite value - in my case an 18-digit number known as a CLABE (not a 3-digit bank code plus an account number of up to 34(!) digits).
- Equiniti Paymaster does not have a valid Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure, thus preventing complainants from bringing their cases to TPO (although this would probably be to no avail anyway - see below):
- Its complaints procedure is a two-stage pseudo-IDRP that appears to be designed to lead the complainant into a blind alley (and the complaint information indicates you must complete their complaints procedure before even contacting TPAS). Whilst TPO is mentioned, nowhere does it say that a proper IDRP must be completed before TPO will investigate (and this does not exist).
- The only commitment made is to simply acknowledge a written complaint within 10 working days of its receipt. And Equiniti Paymaster claimed - I believe falsely - that they did not receive the bank details form I initially sent by registered post. But with post (unlike email) there is no way to be sure whether what was sent was received (except for courier, which is very expensive and cannot be sent to a PO box number).
- Equiniti Paymaster's conduct has caused me not only considerable worry, but also financial losses through having to liquidate funds prematurely and an unfavourable exchange rate when payment finally arrived (also without interest). But there is no possibility of compensation, and Equiniti Paymaster can continue to mete out the same negligent and cavalier treatment to others with total impunity. And, although I am currently receiving my much-needed preserved pension, there is the sobering thought that if they decided to stop paying it, I would have no remedy, even if I could complete an IDRP (see also the issues with TPO below).
- SW also provided bogus complaint information; this is much worse than providing no information at all. There can be no proper regulation and oversight of customer complaints procedures; and this lack of supervision clearly applies to other areas.
- Equiniti Paymaster imposed unreasonable demands for a declaration I was required to make
- This letter and form essentially requiring me to confirm that I am the person named on the letter was received on 21 January 2019 (dated 30 November 2018).
- The only justification given was the need to keep their records up to date. Even if this is reasonable, the requirements for witnessing my signature certainly are not...
- The only option available to me was a lawyer (or a notary public, which here, is an experienced government-appointed lawyer). Yet the form also requires that the witness had known me for at least 12 months (and criminal penalties were threatened for false information). This is obviously quite unreasonable for someone acting in a professional (rather than personal) capacity.
- At first I was refused because of this (the lawyers obviously understood English, even though we use Spanish here). I was able to get this form witnessed only after three separate journeys to notary publics, a great deal of trouble and worry, and substantial legal expenses in my meagre circumstances. I achieved this through a notary who had conducted a land purchase about four years earlier, and was willing to sign on this basis.
- Although 12 weeks was allowed for a reply, this may well be insufficient, even though the form arrived more quickly than usual (post can take well over 12 weeks to arrive here). Courier was not an option as the address was a PO box number (they love to use these in the UK, in addition to local-rate call numbers inaccessible from overseas, to make their forced use of post and telephone even more difficult). Anyway, this would have been a further unacceptable expense. I returned the form by registered post on 26 January, and there is no way that I could have returned it more promptly, or by a faster method.
- In an attempt to protect myself against a claim that they had not received the form (as they did with my bank details form also sent by registered post), I sent an email on the same day with attachments of scans of the completed form. Again, I received an automated response to this, stating that they would reply by post. I also retain the envelope, postmarked 18 January 2019. At the time of writing (01 February), I do not know the outcome of this, but have the impression that they will find any excuse to withhold payment.
- The pension claim form AFPS 8 sent by Veterans UK also had to be witnessed, but here the requirements were reasonable and did not present a problem; also this was for a one-off claim, not something that might be sprung upon me at any moment at their whim. Moreover, it was from someone with whom they had had no previous relationship, not someone who was due regular monthly payments.
- Scottish Widows imposes draconian "verification" demands for pension encashment under the blatant false pretence that they
are required under UK legislation:
- These documentation demands are usually referred to in Scottish Widows' documents as "Identification and Verification". Yet identification is done only to establish and record an identity (and was done in my case on a face-to-face basis while I was living in the UK). Subsequently, only the simpler verification of identity would be required, which is a check that the individual matches that identified. It should be obvious that one does not carry out both identification and verification at the same time.
- Verification of identity would only be required by the government under anti-money laundering regulations, which may be applied to any financial transactions (they are not pension-specific). But no AML verification whatever is applicable where there is an ongoing business arrangement, as is clearly the case here.
- Even if the government did require verification of identity, AML requirements are vastly simpler than those of SW, which are clearly designed to be as difficult as possible to satisfy, without being manifestly impossible. However, my circumstances (that SW holds a mailing address, as post cannot be delivered to my residential address) made it impossible for me to satisfy their requirements for proof of Address (I think that this is an oversight on their part). They refused to acknowledge my detailed explanations (to do so would be to admit the invalidity of their demands).
- SW nowhere explicitly states that these are AML requirements (only repeats that they
are required under UK legislation). However, there are references to AML in both their requirements form and a later communication. It is clear that SW took AML regulations, and grossly inflated them to serve their purpose of evading pension encashment. They undermined their position in their Final Response by indicating that their "verification" requirements are only applied to pensions.
- I sent a list of Questions to SW on two occasions, without response, to which they could have provided satisfactory answers if there were any validity to their requirements. One of the difficulties they would have had is explaining why two years earlier, SW required only a signed letter to transfer a much larger sum in liquidation of investments, to the same (HSBC, Mexico) bank account in my full name (Ian Clive McInnes), in the same circumstances. AML is not pension-specific, and had been in place for several years before I liquidated my investments.
- You can read government documents on AML here and here (I did spend some time perusing these before the facts I present became clear). The applicable regulations for my application of April 2016 are those of 2007; however, these were updated in 2017. The first of the links above is to a document of the 2007 regulations that I previously saved (the original reference no longer exists). The second is the original link which now references the 2017 regulations - however the differences are not material to my case.
- Scottish Widows' "verification" requirements are way in excess of what would be required even if verification of identity under AML regulations were applicable. These requirements were initially specified in an email and an attached PDF form:
- The email states that four certified documents are required: two separate documents for proofs of Name and Address (the allowed sources are specified on the separate form), a certified birth certificate, and in addition to this another certified document for proof of age. If verification were required under AML regulations, a single document giving proof of Name plus either Date of Birth or Residential Address would suffice.
- Whilst there are several options for verification of Name and Address (although requiring separate documents), a birth certificate is required for Date of Birth (plus some other document for age). This is presumably on the basis that one can always request a copy of this document, so it is likely to be inconvenient, but not impossible to fulfil. If verification were applicable, various documents would provide acceptable proof of date of birth (and these would also include name).
- The certification requirements are unduly specific, and not appropriate to those overseas where this may be done somewhat differently (I could not certify my documents completely in accordance with these requirements here in Mexico).
- The government requires that verification be done on residential address (where proof of date of birth is not supplied), but SW's documentation throughout refers only to plain Address. In my case, these are not the same, and even if I could prove the postal address I supplied for mailing purposes, this would not be valid for government AML requirements. If SW had asked for my residential address, I would have supplied it and stated that they must use another address to send all their paper - but they never did.
- Scanned documents are acceptable under AML regulations, but SW insists that everything be posted (notwithstanding the apparently flexible options in the initial email). However, later in complaint-management mode, they later "offered" to accept a scan of my ID card alone as verification. This would indeed have been sufficient to satisfy AML requirements.
- Scottish Widows further confounds the customer with dreadful documentation and communication in connection with their "verification" requirements:
- The email and PDF form to some degree duplicate and contradict each other, making the requirements unclear in a number of respects from the outset. For example, the specifications of people who can certify documents differ considerably.
- The email states that 30 days are allowed, and indicates that documents may be emailed or faxed; it is only after perusing the accompanying form that becomes apparent that all documents must be certified, and certified documents must be sent by post (this is one example of SW feigning flexible means of communication, when the reality is that the medium is forced upon the customer).
- The very next day after sending the PDF form, SW sent by post two letters and forms (one for policy P56879Q, one for N80803X) with a quite different version of form to that emailed. This form contained conspicuous errors, and also invalidated my certified ID card as permanent resident. These took three months to arrive, and were received three weeks later than the letter they subsequently sent in rejection of my documents. Not only were the forms quite different, it now appeared that I was required to complete a separate form for each policy number. And the letter now allows only 14 days for a response (which clearly includes post both ways).
- SW responded to my email of 11 April 2016 with a letter and form in rejection of my documents (received 16 June 2016). This was posted, even though I made plain in the first paragraph of my email that post takes around three months to arrive. Also ignored was the full explanation in my email of why it was simply not possible for me to completely satisfy their requirements. And as can be seen, there is no proper explanation, only some innuendo about being
unable to accept any documentation that has fall(sic) out of the required timescales.
- Subsequently, SW posted several further quite unnecessary letters and forms in several versions (sometimes only in pagination, with pagination errors in some cases making details illegible), and elsewhere in content (the final version sent was similar to, but still different from the original PDF form). I contend that they sent these redundant forms to feign willingness to encash; and they justified closure of my application on the basis that I had not responded to two of these sent within two days of each other and so
we must assume that you do not wish to proceed with this claim(even though I had recently sent a follow up, in response to which they sent another request for documents).
- Scottish Widows' grossly erroneous and changing requirements documentation is very strong evidence that it has nothing to do with compliance with Anti-Money Laundering Regulations:
- The AML regulations in force at the time of my application date from 2007 (the next update was in 2017). If Scottish Widows' documentation were about AML, it would have been introduced many years ago, and last updated for the 2007 Regulations. It would thus be well established and free of serious errors.
- Following the PDF form emailed on 05 April 2016, six paper forms were sent: two on 06 April 2016 (one for P56879Q, one for N80803X), one on 14 April 2016, one on 24 May 2016, one on 26 May 2016, and the last on 01 June 2016. The first five are quite different from the PDF form, differ within themselves, and are full of serious and conspicuous errors. The last paper form is almost identical to the PDF form, and free of obvious errors.
- This indicates that Scottish Widows' documentation was created only shortly before my application of April 2016. I believe that, far from being introduced to comply with AML regulations, it was part of a strategy to stem the flow of increased pension encashments arising from the 25% tax concession in the Pension Freedom legislation of April 2015 (and that this is what Scottish Widows is referring to when they say that their demands
are required under UK legislation).
- Scottish Widows forces pension encashment applicants to undergo a lengthy telephone interview before attempting to fulfil the above requirements (this is clearly another part of their strategy to evade pension encashment). In my case, this took about an hour and a half, most of which comprised thinly-disguised efforts to persuade me to withdraw my application. In my case this was a nightmare, as I had a hearing impediment making use of the telephone difficult; but there was no other option. SW's
Take it in Cashweb page is clearly another piece of window dressing (deception), which would avoid neither the telephone interview, nor the "verification" requirements.
- Scottish Widows imposes the medium of communication upon the customer (this is ordinary post, or telephone where they want to keep it off the record or browbeat the customer). After initially feigning flexible means of communication, they responded to my email by post, even though I told them that post from the UK can take over three months to arrive here. They only reverted to the use of email to try to defuse my complaint. Moreover, they required postal responses within 14 days of the date of the letter (and this period includes post both ways, which would make it quite impossible for many living overseas). Considering the difficulty in fulfilling their "verification" requirements, this may make things impossible even for those in the UK. They offered only telephone to deal with my complaint.
- Equiniti Paymaster also forced the use of post in a dreadful response to my email explaining the requirements to transfer funds to Mexico entitled Automated Response, even though I had chosen in my application to communicate by email and pointed out the serious issues with post. And this response to an email appears to be their standard practice, as it was repeated in their response to my email of 26 January 2019 in connection with their declaration requirements (see above).
- Scottish Widows resorted to deceitful and evasive tactics to defuse a complaint (aside from referring me to the Financial Ombudsman, without mentioning either TPAS or TPO):
- In response to my request of 26 June 2016 for their Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (not realising then that this is not required for a personal pension scheme), on 01 July 2016 they sent two password-protected PDF documents with a secure reply facility:
- a denial of any familiarity with the term IDRP (even though SW also handles occupational pensions)
- a request to send by post the documents as I emailed them (they had apparently now become valid, even though according to their previous statements, they were not acceptable under UK legislation)
- In response to my detailed complaint of 10 July 2016, I received an email of 13 July 2016 that offered three communication options - all of them telephone. This was despite my having made very clear in the second paragraph of my complaint that I have a hearing impediment, which made the telephone interview very difficult. The use of email was deterred on the pretext of quite risible concerns about my safety online. They were unable to respond by email due to these privacy and security concerns, even though they were able to email me password-protected PDFs with secure reply less than two weeks earlier. In my reply of 17 July 2016, I rejected the use of telephone, and stated that I had investigated AML requirements and found that SW had no business to require proof of address with proof of date of birth (I had not yet cottoned on to the fact that no verification whatever should have been required).
- Evidently in response to the above, in their email of 01 August 2016, another department in SW offered to accept a scan of my certified ID card alone as verification, provided it were sent by my bank. There were some other stipulations that appear to have been invented on the spur of the moment. This in fact (minus the additional conditions that were clearly designed to avoid the accusation that they should have accepted the documents as I sent them several months ago) is all that would be required under AML regulations, giving good proof of both Name and Date of Birth. But by now I was clear that no verification whatever should have been required, and could not in any case take this seriously. On 22 August 2016, they sent a follow up with still different requirements.
- There was a further (apparently desperate) attempt to telephone me shortly after my case was assigned to the TPO adjudicator (see Evidence of a Lucrative TPO Deal to Protect Scottish Widows, and Telephone calls made by Scottish Widows on 08/09 November 2016.
- In response to my request of 26 June 2016 for their Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (not realising then that this is not required for a personal pension scheme), on 01 July 2016 they sent two password-protected PDF documents with a secure reply facility:
- Scottish Widows' last written communication was an intransigent Final Response of 24 August 2016, that makes Basil Fawlty look like a paragon of customer friendliness. As I had rejected their "offers" they perhaps had nothing else to do except reassert their original requirements, ignoring my explanations of why it was impossible for me to satisfy them. They were also impervious to the issues from their forcing the use of post (which would make things impossible for many others living overseas, or even in the UK), with the statements:
Scottish Widows is a UK based company and our processes are set to suit the majority of our customers
We cannot be held responsible for any mail you have not received in a timely manner due to the Mexican postal service
we would ask all customers to satisfy these requirements prior to the settlement of these types of pension policies, thus confirming that they are indeed only applied to pension policies (AML requirements are not pension-specific). It also endorsed their pointlessly sending numerous letters and forms, enclosed a leaflet for the Financial Ombudsman, and offered only telephone as a medium for any follow up.
- Scottish Widows conspicuously refers pension administration complaints to the Financial Ombudsman (FO), without ever mentioning either TPAS or TPO (see their complaint information and their Final Response).
- But as stated by both FO and TPO, the remit of the Financial Ombudsman in pensions is confined to their sales and marketing, with pension administration complaints being handled only by TPO.
- Yet, although the FO claims that any pension administration complaints received will be transferred to TPO, this is not so; I could quickly find several purely SW pension administration complaints on their website (and none was upheld).
- This and other matters lead me to believe that SW and FO have a cosy "arrangement" (as SW now also appears to have with TPO - see below).
- The Pensions Ombudsman refused to investigate and determine my case against SW, and instead (after a year of deliberate delay and prevarication) forced a
pragmatic solutionin protection of SW requiring me to supply more documents in order to access my pension funds (which I refused to be party to, making clear that I required a resolution based on justice and the rule of law). This is in gross violation of the Pension Schemes Act 1993/2017 sections 145(4C) and 146. TPO ignored or ridiculously minimised the issues with SW that I explained at length in my emails, and never challenged SW in any way; like TPAS, TPO would not send SW my list of questions, although I suggested on at least two occasions that this would enable SW to explain their "identification and verification" demands. For a full narrative see here. A brief summary with links to the relevant narrative sections follows:
- Deliberate Inaction: My case was assigned to the Adjudicator (Barry Berkengoff) in October 2016, but he did not communicate until May 2017 - and then only after he was essentially forced out of hiding. There were some suspicious circumstances that caused me a great deal of worry, in addition to the inordinate delay.
- Subsequent Evasiveness and Prevarication: This was another stressful period of excuses and unfulfilled promises to look at my case. In my email of 12 July 2017, I stated that if he did not give evidence that he was taking my case seriously, I would assume that he was refusing to investigate. His reply contained no substance whatever, only untenable denials.
- My Attempts to get Information, then Report Suspicious Conduct: I first attempted to get information on two suspicious circumstances; then, having met with evasive responses, explained my concerns. This led to more evasiveness, with my concerns being passed from the Casework Manager (Jane Stephens) to the Casework Director (Fiona Nicol) minus my key concerns, having been told to be assured that my case had been actively investigated since it was assigned in May 2017 (two false statements). I sent two emails to the Casework Director to correct this blatant misrepresentation, which was clearly intended to bowdlerise my evidence.
- A Bullying Response to a Complaint I Did Not Make: This malfeasant Complaint Response of 15 September 2017 by Fiona Nicol is an appalling way to deal with my cautiously-expressed and reasonable concerns, and contained statements that can have no credibility. Any reasonable organisation would respond constructively to my comments, and investigate the matter. But instead, I was slapped down in a vitriolic document replete with false accusations, blank denials, and untenable explanations. Moreover, I am falsely accused of making allegations, and mistreating staff (outrageous, considering the mistreatment I have received from TPO). I invite readers to review the complete correspondence involved and judge for themselves who is the more reasonable party. With hindsight, I believe this was intended to "soften me up" into accepting the ensuing
- A Forced
Pragmatic Solutionin Protection of Scottish Widows: This followed shortly after the said Complaint Response, and it now seemed clear that there was a TPO-wide conspiracy to protect Scottish Widows. The initial attempt by Barry Berkengoff to push me into this "solution" was in an email of 03 October 2017, followed by a more forceful follow up of 31 October 2017, and an intelligence-insulting follow up by Jane Stephens a year later of 05 November 2018 (you can see all of these, plus my responses by following the previous link).
- A Clear Conspiracy, with Non-Response to Five Emails: In response to the above, I sent five unanswered emails making clear I would not be party to such a criminal and corrupt "solution". One was to the Casework Director and Pensions Ombudsman (Anthony Arter), two to the PO alone, one to the Legal Director (Claire Ryan), with a further email of 11 November 2018 in response to the absurd follow up by the Casework Manager. All were evidently unable to contest my statements about their contempt for pensions law amounting to clear criminal misconduct, plus their lies, deceit and evasiveness. As the Pensions Ombudsman (Anthony Arter) has been made aware of the criminal activity within TPO in three emails, and has neither responded nor taken any action, he must be considered complicit in it; even if he did not initiate this criminal conspiracy, he is clearly responsible for creating the environment in which it took place.
- The Pensions Ombudsman almost certainly did a deal with SW to bury my case, shortly after it was assigned to the Adjudicator. It seems that SW already had an arrangement with the Financial Ombudsman.
- But even if there were no deal, TPO's protection of a pension provider from criminal charges is clearly Perversion of the Course of Justice.
- And even if this were not the case, to force a
pragmatic solutionupon the complainant in lieu of fulfilling its statutory duties of investigation and determination is a clear case of the criminal offence of Misconduct in Public Office.
- The Pensions Ombudsman's
pragmatic solutionis based on a ridiculous false premise: that I did not supply satisfactory proof of Name. This is in diametric contradiction of the comprehensively-documented facts that:
- the ID card I supplied (as a government-issued document with photo ID) gives the best possible proof of Name, was accepted by Scottish Widows, and was specified as an option for evidence of Name in their documentation.
- my documents were rejected (correctly, according to Scottish Widows' criteria) as I could not meet their requirements for proof of Address.
are required under UK legislation. This was clearly quite embarrassing for SW/TPO, as it demonstrates their invalidity (SW had not considered my particular situation). Knowing this, and that I had supplied their only option for Date of Birth (a birth certificate), the
pragmatic solution(in which I had to provide more "verification" documents to enable pension encashment) had to be based on my providing an alternative proof of Name. For more on this, see below and my Opinion Rejection (the Opinion in section  preposterously claimed that I had supplied documents that satisfied their requirements for proof of Address, but that my ID card would not provide proof of Name).
- The Pensions Ombudsman attempted to impose this
pragmatic solutionon four occasions. Each time, I responded making clear that I would not be party to it, but my emails remain unanswered:
- The initial attempt by Barry Berkengoff in the email of 03 October 2017, to which I responded with an email of 04 October 2017 to Barry Berkengoff CC Fiona Nicol & Anthony Arter, and a further email of 08 October 2017 to Mr Arter alone.
- The second attempt by Barry Berkengoff in the email of 31 October 2017 requiring me to accept his "solution" or withdraw my case, to which I responded with an email of 01 November 2017 to Anthony Arter. And I expressed fully the criminal misconduct of both SW and TPO in my email of 10 January 2018 to the Legal Director (Claire Ryan), inviting a response (although this was read, there was no reply).
- The first attempt by Jane Stephens in the email of 05 November 2018 continued the
pragmatic solution(over a year later) with some quite absurd statements, to which I responded in my email of 11 November 2018.
- The unexpected Opinion of 15 January 2019 by Jane Stephens, which stated in section  that I had my "options" (these were actually provided in blatant violation of pensions law by TPO), to which I responded in my rejection of 27 January 2019.
- The Pensions Ombudsman went to great lengths to avoid determination of my case. The eventual Opinion and Final Determination were issued only after I had explicitly demanded that my case be investigated and determined under the provisions of the Pension Schemes Act 1993/2017 in my email of 11 November 2018, following the delays and imposition of the
pragmatic solutionnoted above. See also the relevant sections in the Overview.
- The Opinion of 15 January 2019 was apparently by the Casework Manager, but sent by a new Adjudicator named Tunde Adenubi (Barry Berkengoff left TPO within a few weeks after his second attempt to impose the
pragmatic solution). I was given no prior opportunity to comment on any of the statements; it was presented as a fait accompli. It upholds Scottish Widows' documentation demands by dint of gross misrepresentations of Anti Money Laundering regulations, and some quite extraordinary false statements in direct contradiction of documented facts are used to support TPO's
pragmatic solution. Please read this Opinion in conjunction with my Rejection to see how TPO resorts to blatant lies and gross distortions to sustain their absurd
pragmatic solutionin protection of Scottish Widows. And this potential informal resolution illustrates how under Mr Arter's scheme, "Adjudicators" who are neither qualified nor legally empowered for a judicial role are able to pull the wool over the eyes of a less-than-astute complainant by producing such balderdash, without any accountability.
- On 22 March 2019, I received an Amended Opinion, apparently by Tunde Adenubi after discussion with Anthony Arter. This maintains the legitimacy of Scottish Widows' documentation demands, but accepts failings in their handling of them, and states that SW has offered to pay £1000 in compensation. This is no more appropriate than it would be for an offender in Court to offer the Judge a fine - it again acknowledges an illegitimate TPO-SW relationship. Moreover, it is based on the false premise that SW did not do enough to help me meet their requirements, when in fact SW on two occasions offered to accept documents that did not satisfy requirements that they state are "required under UK legislation". An early reply was urged, and I complied with a Rejection of 24 March 2019. Just four days after the Amended Opinion, on 26 March 2019 the Adjudicator sent the Final Determination by Anthony Arter, which was clearly written without having read the above rejection (although I had already made the main points in my Opinion Rejection).
- The new Adjudicator appears to have sent my rejection (and presumably also the Opinion) to the Department for Work & Pensions, as my access logs show that they spent several hours looking at it, on three occasions - the first just two days after I sent my opinion rejection. He would have good reason to be concerned at what he saw, and this may be whistle-blowing (although if so it seems he was later brought into line, and it might have been some kind of consultation). As DWP is well aware of TPO criminal misconduct but has taken no action, it must be considered complicit in this conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
- An appeal of the Final Determination to the High Court must be made within 28 days. In any circumstances this is a limited time period, as one must first obtain leave to appeal. My Mexican residency would probably have made it impossible for me to meet the deadline, but TPO made sure:
- The Final Determination was sent on 26 March 2019, giving a deadline of 22 April 2019. This date was Bank Holiday Easter Monday, which significantly shortened the effective time evailable.
- That this was a deliberate machination is indicated by the new Adjudicator's preceding email of 22 March, in which I was pressed to respond within 3 days (I sent a rejection on 24 March).
- Moreover, they clearly changed the password required to decrypt their emails, or otherwise prevented me from reading them (I had no problems until just before the Final Determination was sent). However, the new Adjudicator (who as indicated above was probably sympathetic to my position) was responsive to my request to send them unencrypted.
- The Opinion of 15 January 2019 was apparently by the Casework Manager, but sent by a new Adjudicator named Tunde Adenubi (Barry Berkengoff left TPO within a few weeks after his second attempt to impose the
- The Pensions Ombudsman produced an Opinion and Final Determination in blatant contradiction of documented facts. It is not possible to discuss these documents in any detail here - see my Determination Rejection (not sent to TPO). The last time I looked, the Final Determination was published on the TPO website, even though it would not withstand scrutiny. Note in particular that although the function of TPO includes investigating the positions of both sides, Scottish Widows never offered any kind of explanation of why their disputed documentation requirements were imposed (stating only that they are
required under UK legislation, and in their Final Response
These are required under UK legislation and we would ask all customers to satisfy these requirements prior to the settlement of these types of pension policies.). SW did not respond to the questions I sent on two occasions, and the adjudicator prevaricated and refused to challenge SW. But perhaps most telling of TPO's criminal cover up is the section entitled Scottish Widows' Position in both Opinion and Determination, which contains the following preposterous statements (I quote all five bullets of paragraph 24 of the Determination in full here to avoid a charge of giving a misleading extract):
The documents they have received to date only satisfy the criteria for verifying Mr S' address, not his name.Extraordinary, since SW rejected only the 2007 bank statement I supplied as my best attempt at proof of Address, not my proofs of Name (National ID card with photo) and Date of Birth (the obligatory birth certificate).
His National Identity Card would not verify Mr S' name. As Mr S does not have a driving licence and he is not an EEA member, only a UK passport would suffice.Equally extraordinary, as it is absolutely clear from both SW documentation (including the requests for documents and confirmations of telephone interview) and all the circumstances that the national ID card I supplied was valid proof of Name and was accepted as such.
Bank statements from HSBC would verify Mr S' address. HSBC can certify both the bank statements and the passport. It would be preferable if the documents could be certified by a branch manager, who should clearly show that the original had been seen and that it was a true copy. The name, address and position of the certifier should also be shown.Why all this, when they had just stated that SW had already received documents that satisfy the criteria for verifying my address? And I had explained in detail why I could not supply a recent bank statement with the (correspondence) address held by SW.
The reason Mr S was able to take monies for other investments was because, at that time, Anti Money Laundering exemptions applied to those policies. Those exemptions do not currently apply to these policies.If SW made such a self-evidently vague and unsatisfactory statement, TPO should have asked for clarification. In my Opinion Rejection, I challenged TPO to substantiate what is clearly an outrageous lie in a desperate attempt to deal with awkward facts that refute SW's documentation demands (without response). These are that about two years earlier, I liquidated both SW investment and mortgage plans for a substantial sum to the same HSBC bank account as that to which payment was to be made in exactly the same circumstances with only a signed letter; moreover from 2006 to 2012 I made numerous transfers to this account from Lloyds bank accounts in the UK, some of which were also for amounts well above the threshold at which AML due diligence should have been applied, again with only signed letters being required. And AML due diligence applies equally to ALL transactions; it is not dependent on the type of transaction or policy (clear from TPAS information and government AML documents - nowhere are there references to exemptions).
The offer for Mr S to email the documents should not have been made.This refers to SW's second attempt to defuse my complaint, after having previously offered to accept the original (with outdated bank statement) documents provided they were posted. This time they offered to accept a scan of my certified ID card alone (provided it were sent by my bank with other ad-hoc conditions, clearly to avoid the charge that they should have accepted this document as I emailed it). My ID card alone would indeed provide good verification of identity under AML regulations (were this required). However, SW's offer to accept this conflicts with the TPO
pragmatic solutiondenying the validity of my national ID card, so TPO must controvert it (even though another SW employee followed up this offer by post three weeks later).
pragmatic solution, in which I was required to supply a passport in lieu of my ID card (only later indicated by Jane Stephens to be for proof of Name). But even if the basis for this were valid, under the Pension Schemes Act 1993/2017, TPO has no business to even make the
attempt to achieve a mediated resolutionreferred to by Mr Arter in his Determination, never mind to force such a "solution" on the complainant in lieu of investigation and determination. See my Opinion Rejection for fuller explanation of the circumstances showing the falsity of the above assertions. The remaining three paragraphs in this section (25-27) are hardly relevant to SW's position, but refer to a
letter of introductionas an alternative means of verification in the absence of a passport (thus following on from the
pragmatic solution). This appears to be nonsense, but in any case I could not fulfil these requirements either. Paragraph 27 fails to note that SW imposed their verification demands under the false claim that they
are required under UK legislation(otherwise they would be gross maladministration, but presumably not criminal).
- The Pensions Ombudsman acted as SW's advocates and self-appointed AML experts:
- It is clear from the above that TPO did nothing to question SW's reasons for imposing their documentation demands. But in the absence of any satisfactory explanation from SW, TPO should have consulted HM Revenue & Customs to resolve the matter "from the horse's mouth". HMRC offers such a service to companies subject to AML regulations via email (MLRCIT@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk); clearly HMRC would have responded to TPO (a fellow government organisation).
- Yet instead of checking with SW and/or HMRC, TPO (Jane Stephens and Anthony Arter) acted as both SW advocates and experts on AML requirements:
- Ms Stephens in the Opinion gave irrelevant details about AML (including a history that neglected to mention the applicable 2007 regulations), and confused Identification and Verification of Identity (these are two separate phases). In this context, Ms Stephens stated that enhanced due diligence should be carried out if the customer is not physically present when the identification checks were carried out (this is not applicable to my case, as identification was carried out on a face-to-face basis while I was living in the UK). All in all, very easy to demolish, as I did in my Opinion Rejection.
- Mr Arter in the Final Determination did rather better, in finding a catch-all clause in Regulation 7(2) of the 2007 regulations (while ignoring or sidestepping the numerous patently false statements and gross misinterpretations of AML requirements made by Ms Stephens in the Opinion):
A relevant person must also apply customer due diligence measures at other appropriate times to existing customers on a risk-sensitive basis.Unfortunately, it is not clear what is meant by "appropriate times", nor is it clear just what due diligence would be appropriate, so this clause might seem to give the company considerable discretion. Nonetheless, it is clear that it should only be applied where there is some evident risk. It is hard to understand what risk an identified and long-established British individual customer could pose by simply being resident in another country, with payment to be made to the same HSBC bank account in my full name to which they had previously transferred a substantial sum (requiring only a signed letter).
- In an attempt to clear up any doubt over the catch-all clause found by Mr Arter (Regulation 27(8) in the 2017 regulations), on 6 June 2019, I sent an email to HMRC (from a new email account), and received an automated response in return. I received nothing further (clearly, HMRC could see that I am an individual, not a company subject to AML regulations). However, Regulation 27(9) gives some examples of when it is appropriate to apply due diligence on an existing customer: indication of change of identity, transactions not consistent with knowledge of customer, change in business relationship; these and other examples I have seen all relate to suspected fundamental changes in the nature of the customer, which is clearly not so in my case.
- All the above demonstrates that The Pensions Ombudsman is in the business of protecting pension providers; and this has particularly been the case since the appointment of Anthony Arter (who holds shares in 22 of them, and has a background as a solicitor defending such companies). For these general concerns over the conduct of TPO, and the machinations of Mr Arter to evade determinations that are subject to legal and public scrutiny, see Unlawful Conduct of The Pensions Ombudsman.
- The Pensions Ombudsman staff appear to be totally unconcerned about their criminal misconduct. The only exception is perhaps the new adjudicator, who it seems did not want to be part of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (certainly not the absurd house of cards created by Berkengoff and Stephens, with the clear involvement of Nicol and Arter). That he blew the whistle by sending my information to the Department for Work & Pensions is suggested by hits from DWP on my website over a period of several hours, two days after I sent my rejection of this Opinion; and these hits clearly originated from links in this Opinion rejection. But it is clear now that DWP is covering up for TPO, and his apparent attempts to report the misconduct came to nothing. Several other members of TPO staff knew that criminal misconduct was taking place, but failed to take an action - if this was whistle-blowing, only this Adjudicator had the probity (or temerity) to report the matter, in what is clearly a very corrupt and self-protective environment.
- The Pensions Advisory Service is clearly part of a cover up of SW's criminal misconduct:
- Although it was supposed to be independent of TPO (as part of Mr Arter's machinations, it is now integrated within TPO), it clearly sings from the same songbook.
- TPAS was evasive throughout on the issue of SW's fraudulent "verification" requirements, claiming they were not experts in this area. One does not need to be an expert to know that no verification is required where there is an ongoing business relationship, especially with their contacts in the business; and they did know enough to state that they are not transaction-specific (while giving the impression that they applied generally to pensions).
- When I confronted them with my findings (after thoroughly perusing the above links to government AML documents in the first TPAS email for this case), there was no reply for several weeks, then (without explanation) they stated that my case would be transferred to another advisor and there would be a further delay. I suspect that the original advisor got a smacked bottom for giving me these links, probably in the belief that I would take only a cursory look before accepting that verification of identity was required. But I checked these documents carefully over a period of about a week before stating that SW's requirements were entirely without valid basis.
- The evasiveness then continued, and the advisor would not even send my list of questions to SW (although when I stated that I would send them myself, he offered to comment on any responses, no doubt realising that I would not receive any). The only arbitration offered with SW was over their use of post (a non-criminal matter; and anyway, TPAS made plain that they could not change SW's processes, regardless of how much difficulty they caused the customer).
- The Pensions Regulator appeared to be the body that should have some jurisdiction over the conduct of TPO. So on 17 January 2018 I sent an email expressing my concerns over TPO conduct, requesting an investigation. But they stated that their role is
to enforce the legislation surrounding work-based pension schemes. This leaves the question of who is supposed to do this for personal pension schemes. And they clearly did not do a very good job in the case of Equiniti Paymaster (either that or there is a serious lack of such legislation). They stated that they had no jurisdiction over TPO, but that it was stewarded by the Department for Work & Pensions. They also referred me to the Financial Conduct Authority and Action Fraud.
- The Department for Work & Pensions recommended the appointment of a Pensions Ombudsman (Anthony Arter) with self-evidently heavy bias in favour of pension providers:
- TPO claims that it investigates and determines complaints impartially, and does not take sides. It is therefore imperative that its Ombudsman is impartial.
- Yet Mr Arter (according to the declared list of interests for senior TPO staff) has shares in no fewer than 22 pension providers.
- Moreover, his previous occupation was a solicitor acting for such companies.
- Mr Arter has implemented many changes that are clearly aimed at eroding TPO accountability and transparency in protection of the pension provider - see Unlawful Conduct of The Pensions Ombudsman.
- Mr Arter must be considered complicit in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, as he has been made aware of it in three emails, but has neither responded nor taken any action to deal with it.
- See the Parliamentary Report relating to this appointment, including Mr Arter's CV and covering letter.
- Although the appointment is made by the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, the Department for Work & Pensions is clearly behind the decision.
- The larger part of this document is Mr Arter's CV and covering letter; there is no mention of what other candidates were considered. In fact, there is nothing to indicate that any candidates other than Mr Arter were considered.
- Following from this, although it is stated that the recruitment process was launched on 29 November 2014, there is no indication of what this entailed and how candidates were selected. One would expect a substantial number of candidates for a preliminary examination, then a second round with a selection of these. This basic information should have been provided in such a document.
- The Department for Work & Pensions is supposed to steward TPO, yet it did nothing in response to two reports they received about TPO (and SW) criminal misconduct:
- Noting that emails and photos of members of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Work & Pensions are published on the commons website, on 28 February 2018 I sent an email to these members, but it was bounced as spam.
- Subsequently, I heard through a contact (who does have access to them) that the Select Committee was inviting information up to 18 May. So on 05 May 2018 I sent through this contact a comprehensive report. Although I know that it was received (through hits on my website due to security scans on the links), it was clearly ignored (there were no accesses to my website, nor was any action taken).
- DWP is well aware of TPO misconduct in my case, as they accessed my website on at least three occasions but have taken no action (see the Access Reports):
- On 29 January 2019, DWP scrutinised my website over a period of several hours. This can only have been in response to my rejection of a preposterous Opinion in the name of the Casework Manager (Jane Stephens), but sent by an unfamiliar Adjudicator (Tunde Adenubi). It seems that this new adjudicator did not want to be involved in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (certainly not the ridiculous charade constructed by the previous Adjudicator and the Casework Manager), and forwarded my rejection to DWP. Others in TPO were aware of TPO's involvement in criminal misconduct, and could also have notified DWP - but nobody did so. And it seems that Mr Adenubi has been brought into line, as he subsequently delivered an Amended Opinion in his name, then the Final Determination of Mr Arter.
- DWP accessed my website again over a period of about an hour on 05 March 2019. This time, they seemed more interested in Scottish Widows, as they accessed my Verification page, SW's requirements documentation, and their Final Response. DWP has the power (and thus responsibility) to deal with SW as well as TPO; its failure to address proven criminal misconduct by either is a very serious dereliction of duty.
- Exactly three months later on 05 June 2019, DWP accessed my website for a third time. Accesses included this home page, Ms Stephen's continuation of the
pragmatic solutionstarted by Mr Berkengoff plus my reply, and the access report referenced above (now they know that I know that they know about TPO corruption and SW criminal misconduct).
- So DWP is well aware that criminal misconduct is taking place within TPO; yet it has taken no action whatever to deal with it (if it had, certain members of TPO staff would have been prosecuted).
- The corollary of this lack of action on a clear conspiracy to pervert the course of justice is that DWP (which has the duty of governance of TPO) is actually in corrupt protection of it.
- But perhaps this is not surprising, since they promoted the crook (Anthony Arter) at the head of the conspiracy; and this was clearly with knowledge of his background.
- Subsequent reports of TPO criminal misconduct to the Committee for Work & Pensions (CWP) and the only offices of DWP that I could access were met with evasiveness:
- I found an email address for CWP available to the public (email@example.com). Although it is called "Committee for Work & Pensions", you will not get through to the committee members, only to a Clerk. On 28 July 2019 I sent a clear report of TPO misconduct. The reply I received on 1 August 2019 was hardly encouraging, giving the well-worn disclaimer that they could not conduct enquiries into individual cases, but had asked that my letter be passed to their "pensions specialist" to "inform the Committee's future work in this area". This was a ludicrous dismissal of a very serious matter, and their (anonymous) reply could not be taken seriously.
- As they had not taken seriously my report of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, on 26 August 2019 I sent a second email. I expressed my dissatisfaction with the previous response, and endeavoured to make even clearer the serious nature of TPO's offences. I also included several links to my website. Their reply of 29 August 2019 (again signed only "Work and Pensions Committee") stated that TPO is an independent organisation funded by the Government (two incorrect statements). In fact DWP is responsible for the oversight of TPO, and otherwise TPO hardly operates in a vacuum. And TPO funding is through a levy on pension schemes (in other words, ultimately TPO is funded entirely by the ordinary pension holders who pay money into these schemes).
- The above reply included a link to a document on the appointment of Mr Arter. This was by way of confirming their statement that the Pensions Ombudsman is appointed by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (true, but it is obvious that DWP is behind the decision). This document contained no information whatever about selection procedures beyond stating when the post was advertised; in particular, there was no mention of what, if any, other candidates had been considered. Instead, the document was all about Mr Arter; over half of it was occupied by his CV and covering letter. I had the impression that Mr Arter was the only candidate considered.
- Having checked the DWP website and searched extensively elsewhere for any other email address by which I could report the TPO criminal misconduct, on 7 September 2019, I sent this email to firstname.lastname@example.org (the only email address I could find that it seemed might be appropriate). On 9 September, I received this reply, which stated that they only handled technical queries relating to the website. They suggested that I contact the "relevant department" directly (without giving me any idea of how I could do this).
- In another effort to determine how to contact the "relevant department", I sent another email in response to the above, explicitly requesting an email address on which I could report TPO criminal misconduct, or at least where I could find one. Their reply of the next day essentially repeated their previous email; however, it gave me details for the International Pension Centre. As they should have realised, this contact information is completely irrelevant, as it deals only with the state pension and other benefits for those living abroad.
- But having no other place to turn to, I sent this email the International Pension Centre, simply asking for an email address to which I could send a report of misconduct by TPO. I received no reply to this.
- Having failed to get anything from the International Pension Centre, I noted the following DWP email address: email@example.com, and so sent an email again requesting an email address on which I could report TPO misconduct, this time under the Freedom of Information Act. Their reply unbelievably claims that they do not know what 'TPO' means, even though this abbreviation has been in standard use for several years, and DWP is supposed to oversee this organisation. This is reminiscent of Scottish Widows' denial of familiarity with the term 'Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure' (in this case I used the full term).
- I therefore sent an email acquainting them with the organisation that they are responsible for stewarding. I received a reply containing simply three links to web pages:
- To make a complaint about a pension scheme
- To make a complaint to DWP
- To report benefit fraud
- Several months later, I found a web page entitled Tailored Review of The Pensions Ombudsman, written by a member of DWP (Hazel Hobbs). On 12 July 2020, I attempted to send a response to this review, reporting the TPO conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, but unfortunately it did not reach its target. I sent this several months after first reading the review, due to concerns over dysfunction resulting firstly from Brexit, then from COVID-19.
- On 20 July 2020, I sent a third email to the "Committee for Work & Pensions", enclosing the email I attempted to send, requesting that they forward it to either Hazel Hobbs, or some other appropriate person in DWP. I stated that "continued failure by DWP to deal with this very serious matter will only confirm beyond all doubt that it is fully implicated in TPO corruption". This time the reply was from a named individual; however it did not get me any further with my attempt to report TPO misconduct. There was no offer to forward the email, only the link to the general DWP website that I had wasted time with previously. It stated that my very serious allegations are a matter for the police, no doubt knowing very well that the Metropolitan Police do not investigate complaints against TPO, nor (probably) against any other government department.
- Action Fraud (the organisation through which one is required to report fraud in the UK) appears to routinely ignore reports, responding with a standard fob-off message to the effect that they have been
unable to identify sufficient leads; but that nonetheless the case is not closed. I made three attempts to get Action Fraud to take action over my case; each was as detailed as I could make it, given that the only option is online form with a restricted input capacity:
- My initial report was sent on 20 May 2017, with the standard response (and apparently also the standard delay of a month) on 22 June 2017.
- I sent a follow up on 25 June 2017 challenging them to either dismiss my assertions (for which I have clear proof and full details) or investigate my evidence, without response.
- I sent a further report about a year later on 20 June 2018 with updated information, again without response.
- These appalling reviews on TrustPilot indicate that Action Fraud is beyond negligent, and (intentionally or not) serves only to protect the fraudster. I have good evidence that the Metropolitan Police are in protection of government organisations in turn protecting big business. It might be interesting to see which complaints AF actually processed, and whether similarly these are only against individuals without government connections.
- The Financial Conduct Authority ought to have been made aware of criminal misconduct by SW that has been taking place for at least two years. So on 22 April 2018 I sent them a report with several attachments, making this misconduct clear. But FCA would not deal with individual cases, only reports by company whistle-blowers (which my experiences suggest are thin on the ground - and also that a whistle-blower's lot is not a happy one). In a similar faux reassurance to that from Action Fraud, they stated that they had
logged my concerns, but that no information about any action would be made available. This superficially helpful response was actually useless.
- The Metropolitan Police (London) failed to take any action on three reports of criminal misconduct against TPO with clear evidence:
- On 20 June 2018, I sent the following tweet (this is a valid means of reporting crime):
@MetCC Report of Misconduct in Public Office by The Pensions Ombudsman. Details: https://www.elpobrecorderito.com/PersonalPensionFiasco/ and https://www.elpobrecorderito.com/PersonalPensionFiasco/DetailsTPO.html#misconduct
- As this tweet was completely ignored (they did not access either link), I hoped that paper would be more cogent. I therefore sent a full (87-page) report by registered post and marked "Crime Report" on 04 July 2018, reporting the activities of TPO with SW as a background, giving various links. I cannot report using their online form, as it requires a UK postcode (although I have no reason to believe that such a report would fare any better than did my report to Action Fraud). This report too was clearly ignored.
- Having found some details on the adjudicator who initiated the illegal TPO
pragmatic solution(he no longer works for TPO), I decided to tweet again, this time raising my report not against the organisation TPO (which I fear is immune to investigation) but the individual Barry Berkengoff. This time, things went a little further:
- On 9 February 2019, I sent the following tweet with a link to a PDF report:
@MetCC Proof of criminal misconduct, strong evidence of extortion. Suspect: Barry Berkengoff, (address). See PDF report for full details and evidence: https://www.elpobrecorderito.com/PersonalPensionFiasco/Docs/MP/ReportBerkengoff.pdf(you will note that neither the tweet nor the linked report contains any reference to TPO; however, the report does contain links to my website).
- In response to this, MetCC (the Metropolitan Police Contact Centre) accessed the front page of my Personal Pension Fiasco website, via the first link in the report; they evidently then forwarded my report to the Metropolitan Police
- The Metropolitan Police spent about two minutes scanning one or two pages of my website accessed from other links in my report (but they did not look at the key evidence in the correspondence)
- As it seemed prudent to let MetCC know that the Department for Work & Pensions was involved, on 10 February, I sent the following follow up to MetCC:
@MetCC Thank you for forwarding the report I sent about 24 hours ago. Useful additional info: It seems an honest TPO adjudicator sent info on my case to the Department for Work & Pensions on 28 January, who spent several hours looking at it - so you might liaise with DWP.
- On 9 February 2019, I sent the following tweet with a link to a PDF report:
- Mr Arter was a Detective Superintendent in the Special Branch, and one or two others in TPO are also ex-cops - perhaps this has something to do with the evident police protection? I'm sure that if it were a minor infraction by some poor homeless guy, they'd come down like a ton of bricks...
As the police will not investigate crimes by either TPO or Scottish Widows (see also the above section on Action Fraud), the only recourse to justice would be to conduct a private prosecution:
- This would probably be best done against Mr Arter personally, as his defence testimony would likely not only blow open my case involving SW/TPO, but also expose more general issues of government corruption and collusion in connection with big business.
- However, private prosecutions are only for those for whom the ridiculous hourly rates of lawyers present no problem.
- Apart from this, my previous experience with said lawyers is that they are likely to waste a great deal of time with patently pointless toing and froing (for example, in a case of a few years ago, my solicitors spent several weeks in communications with the offenders' solicitors to obtain their names and addresses, when they had no obligation to provide them, and were clearly never going to comply).
- This expensive (and lucrative) time-wasting and then unilateral dropping of the case is especially likely against Mr Arter, who not only has excellent connections, but is also a fellow lawyer.
- But even if the lawyer did conduct the case diligently, a private prosecution can at any time be taken over by the Crown Prosecution Service. As this is a government organisation and bringing the case to justice would be highly incriminating for the government, the CPS would almost certainly intervene to silently bury it.
- This prospect of CPS intervention would also preclude any 'no win, no fee' arrangement that might allow ordinary people to pursue justice in this way; but even the well-heeled will clearly get nowhere against the likes of TPO and Scottish Widows.
The UK supposedly has an independent judiciary, but even if this is still the case, the above shows that access to it is another matter altogether. And as I mentioned above (final paragraph), TPO denied me any possibility of appealing their absurd (and potentially highly incriminating) Determination in the High Court.
- On 20 June 2018, I sent the following tweet (this is a valid means of reporting crime):
- Money Saving Expert forums is another great piece of British duplicity and deception:
- With the slogan
fighting your cornerand with its founder as the well-known consumer journalist Martin Lewis (who is still listed as its chair) and moreover having a large British-based membership, MSE appeared to be just the place to bring my case against SW and TPO to the attention of the public. But I was surprised that I could find no significantly negative posts about SW.
- On reading the copious forum rules, I was somewhat concerned that they proscribed words such as "scam" that might be used to criticise companies, but there was no mention of terms or conduct that would be abusive to other members. In my view, it is quite reasonable to use such a word about companies, provided it can be justified - but not acceptable to flame individuals.
- It soon became apparent that these regulations were only the tip of the iceberg, and that there is aggressive censorship of anything that might offend a finance company, by what are clearly forum "police", with huge numbers of posts to their "credit", and who seem to work at all hours.
- See my dealings with MSE from 10 June 2018 onwards, which describes incredibly rapid and unnaturally rabid responses to a factual and moderate post (even though I did use
inflammatory language, the most extreme of which must be the word 'fraudulent'). Each of my three attempts to post was removed within a few minutes (this in the small hours of Monday morning, UK time). And MSE emphatically claims that posts are only removed in response to complaints by members, after review by the forum team!
- I pursued the matter with MSE, stating that my post was in the public interest, and that their suppression of my posts was especially inappropriate considering MSE's self-professed consumer orientation. Furthermore, that my post was entirely factual, and I had full evidence to back it up. However, I was fobbed off; they clearly had no intention of reviewing or accepting my post.
- I later retrieved from the Bing cache some of the activity relating to my three attempts to post (this was snapshotted shortly before the thread was removed). The quite unnaturally rabid responses and information on their posters revealed some useful information about the operation of this forum and its "police"; no sane and normal forum member would respond in this way. And examination of their posts showed that these "police" are not bound by the forum rules.
- According to Wikipedia, MSE was sold in September 2012 to moneysupermarket.com for £87M, making Martin Lewis a fortune (£25M, according to The Guardian). MSE is (now, if not then) clearly in the business of protecting the finance companies from criticism. And anyway, as it does not carry advertising, it must make its money from merchants, so could hardly be impartial as it claims.
- I did contact Martin Lewis via Twitter, but there was no response. If you check his tweets, you will find that he is not content to simply use words like "scam", but intensifiers such as
dirty rotten, ostensibly on behalf of the consumer. I see more than a little deceit, double standards, and duplicity here; things (certainly in the UK) are not always as they seem to be.
- Whilst the membership of MSE is very large, it is clear that the posts that appear are vastly unrepresentative, being from forum "police" and those that have been "house-trained". I think if you check the forum carefully, the lack of any serious criticisms (only "token" ones) will become apparent. And the large quoted membership numbers clearly arise from the fact that once a member, always a member (one cannot quit).
- MSE appears to be the only large website with pretensions to support British pension holders. If it were doing what it claims, the abuses described on this page would be much less likely to take place. But instead, MSE is blocking just criticism of finance companies, thereby allowing them to have a field day. There must be many others like me who have had a dreadful deal as a result, without any effective means of publicising the matter. Especially considering MSE's duplicitous claims to be fighting for the consumer, I find this organisation and its apparatchiks quite contemptible.
- With the slogan
Now I understand what British Justice is about - that of a nanny-state big-brother society where corrupt government organisations in collusion with big business reign supreme, and individual rights and freedoms are trampled underfoot. Worst of all is the deceit and duplicity with every utterance. Add to this the decrepit, stuck-back-in-the-Dark-Ages attitudes, and I am all the more glad to be living here in Mexico, where there is decency and respect for the individual.