Scottish Widows Complaint: PO-14071
Involving fraudulent evasion of pension encashment by SW, and its brazen cover up by TPO
These questions sent to Scottish Widows on two occasions without response demonstrate the illegitimacy of their documentation demands. TPO later made some absurd attempts to
This page contains the unedited list of questions that I sent to Scottish Widows as a PDF attachment to my email of 29 September 2016, after I had made an application to TPO. I re-sent these questions on 23 November, but did not receive a reply.
Of the twelve questions, ten concern Scottish Widows' "verification" requirements, and form the important part of this list. Question 7 deals with their postal responses to emails; however, their Final Response confirms that they will just continue to do things in their own set way, heedless to the expressed needs and wishes of the customer, and to the resultant adverse consequences. Question 8 concerns their professed ignorance of the term IDRP; whilst I do not expect an illuminating answer here (they could simply blame a junior employee), it does serve to introduce their change of position once they realised a complaint was brewing.
Another important matter not covered by these questions is when Scottish Widows first required verification documents in order to encash a pension. One could then enquire why verification was
required under UK legislation after that time, but not previously. The highly erratic and changing requirements documentation strongly suggests that it was introduced only shortly before my application; it could hardly have been to comply with AML regulations that were last updated in 2007. I strongly suspect that their motive was the 25% tax concession in the Pension Freedom legislation of April 2015.
To be surer of a response, I sent this list of questions to two email addresses: that to which I sent the verification documents and my complaint (this appears to be their general portal), and that of the email of 13 July offering discussion of my complaint by telephone. On 23 November, I sent a reminder to these two addresses, again attaching the PDF document. But I have still received no answers to these questions.
Since Scottish Widows appears to require complaint resolution to be done over the telephone, and stated that
To ensure your security, at this time we are not able to respond to the specifics of your complaint by e mail, they may use these policies to justify their lack of response. But Scottish Widows WILL use email when it suits them, as they did in their initial attempts to stifle my complaint. And with the serious implications of these questions, they would surely have responded if my premises were incorrect, or they otherwise had any good answers to them.
However, in the absence of any response, these questions serve as a compendium of the circumstances showing the illegitimacy of Scottish Widows' verification requirements. This should help to prove that they could not possibly have been introduced in the genuine belief that they were
required under UK legislation. Given this, plus the draconian and inordinately burdensome nature of the requirements, it should follow fairly easily that their only purpose could be to gain financially from reduced customer pension encashments. This, combined with Scottish Widows' deceitful implication that they are imposed by the UK government, should result in their prosecution for fraud.
The remainder of this page contains the list of questions exactly as I sent them...
Questions for Scottish Widows
The following government documents are used as references:
Anti-money laundering guidance for trust or company service providers
Money Laundering Regulations: your responsibilities.
Numeric references relate to the first of these documents.
Just over two years before his application to take a lump sum, the applicant Ian Clive McInnes (ICM) encashed a Scottish Widows Investment Plan (OEC 11215134) plus a Mortgage Plan (K168358K) for many times the amount of the two Pension Plans, and in the same circumstances as the current encashment request.
The (HSBC, Mexico) bank account to which the lump sum was to be paid provides the most compelling and definitive verification possible.
Scottish Widows' requests for documents throughout state only that
Scottish Widows' Final Response of 24 August again states that these (verification documents)
Government AML documents specifically exempt from verification requirements those transactions
In the postal reply to ICM's email of 11 April, his documents were rejected and his application subsequently closed on the grounds that the bank statement used to verify his address was not recent. This was despite the facts that:
Government AML guidelines make plain that in questionable cases, other information should be considered in order to evaluate the risk. It would be hard to find a case with less risk than this one.
In the very first paragraph of his email of 11April, ICM made the problems with using post very clear (stating that it takes around 3 months). Nonetheless, Scottish Widows answered this by post; furthermore requiring a reply within 14 days of the date of the letter (which while dated 14 April, was received only on 16 June). This was in the context of email communication, and ICM had every reason to expect a response by the same means. Under any normal circumstances, replying to the email with a few lines of explanation would be far more efficient as well as much faster. Moreover, his follow-up email was also answered by post, even though this can only have confirmed how unworkable post is. Several (impossible to fulfil)
From the above two issues, ICM was denied the possibility of remedying the situation in order to obtain payment in two ways:
On 26 June, ICM sent Scottish Widows an email asking for their Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (not realising at the time that this applies only to occupational pension schemes).
The letter dated 14 April insinuates that Scottish Widows is
This request to post the documents was in another password-protected PDF document dated 30 June, also just after ICM asked about their IDRP, and two weeks after Scottish Widows had closed the application in a letter of 16 June.
Whilst interpretation of government AML requirements may vary in detail, those of Scottish Widows are plainly draconian. Even where verification is appropriate, the following are two examples of extra-government demands imposed by Scottish Widows:
See Appendix 5.1: Acceptable evidence of identity (private individuals). There are numerous other questionable specifications combined with unclear and changing documentation of them, but the above two issues alone add a considerable unnecessary burden to the customer.
Money laundering is a matter for the government. It is for the government to determine what is required and for Scottish Widows to comply with those requirements; Scottish Widows has no business to determine that government AML measures are insufficient. And did Scottish Widows not consider that the government has good reasons for its more limited stipulations, including the fact that more stringent requirements may quite legitimately (as in the case of ICM) be impossible to fulfil?
On 01 August, Scottish Widows offered to accept ICM's certified ID card alone as verification, provided it were emailed by his bank. Whilst his ID card alone would indeed give good proof of both Name and Date of Birth, and thus satisfy government AML regulations (were verification required), it falls well short of the specifications in Scottish Widows' documentation.
This latest "offer" was in response to ICM's initial complaint, in which he stated that he was investigating government AML regulations, and that he was already of the view that Scottish Widows should NOT have required proof of both Address and Date of Birth (although he had not at that time reached his current view that Scottish Widows' requirements
Apart from considerably reduced verification requirements, the email of 01August also introduces the option of sending a scanned (certified) document (provided it is emailed by his bank with some unclear and incongruous stipulations). Whilst this would indeed also conform to government verification requirements (see Section 11.6), Scottish Widows had up to that time always insisted that certified documents must be posted.
Amongst other confusing and inconsistent aspects of their requirements documents, Scottish Widows did not state clearly in their initial details the means by which the verification documents must be sent. At first ICM was led to believe that they could be emailed - only after further perusal did it become apparent that they must all be certified, and that certified documents would not be accepted as scans.
After much deliberation, ICM considered that nonetheless the only sensible way to send the documents was as email attachments. With all the uncertainties surrounding the verification requirements, he was concerned that his documents were likely to be rejected (as indeed they were). Sending them initially by courier would not only have wasted the significant cost of this, but would also tend to invite a postal response. By using email, he had expected that if Scottish Widows would not accept the documents, they would simply reply to the email with an explanation. Had Scottish Widows confirmed that they would accept the documents, but that they must be posted, he would have done so immediately by courier. He did his utmost to comply fully with Scottish Widows' demands in order to obtain payment. He did not in any case expect to have any problems in verifying his identity, since his bank details alone make this clear.