Yet another SIPP provider, Corporate & Professional Pensions (C&PP), has got into trouble.
The directors had placed the firm into administration due to the number of complaints being upheld by the Financial Ombudsman Services against them.
High Risk, Unregulated Investments
C&PP was recently ordered to pay compensation to three clients in relation to their investments into the Platinum Agroforestry programme offered by Sustainable AgroEnergy (SA) – these were high risk and unregulated investments, not suitable for the average retail client.
C&PP argued that they had received a due diligence report issued by Citadel Trustees in relation to the investment. However, the Ombudsman found that whilst Citadel was a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated business, its report appeared to have been instructed by SA and provided to C&PP by SA. It was therefore not clear what, if any, independent due diligence was carried out by the SIPP provider.
C&PP also accepted introductions & investment instructions from unregulated introducers, in fact C&PP accepted 185 introductions from the same group of unregulated firms!
Therefore, the Ombudsman concluded that the providers due diligence process was not as required, leaving clients open to financial losses.
Who was involved:
Citadel Trustees /Highpoint Trustees
This firm was authorised and regulated by the FCA until May 2020.
The issue here was to determine if the trustees had failed to carry out sufficient due diligence in respect of non-standard investments for which the firm acted either as trustee or escrow agent.
Citadel, as they were known until 2014, were involved in investments such as; Sustainable AgroEnergy Plc, EcoPlanet Bamboo, Merco Bonds, Forest Lakes, Global Forestry Investments and Eco-Synergies Ltd.
S J Stone Ltd
Stuart John Stone was the director of this unregulated business.
At the time initial contact was made, C&PP already knew of Mr Stone by reputation and that he was regularly introducing clients to SIPP operators.
On several occasions, C&PP met Mr Stone face to face. Mr Stone was a director of Protea and told C&PP that it was his intention that Protea acquire advisory permissions from the FCA and then introduce clients to SIPP operators as a regulated advisor.
C&PP also knew Mr Stone had been an IFA in the past with Pengwern Wealth Management LLP.
Mr Stone was prosecuted, following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
In August 2013 it was announced he had been charged with various offences relating to fraud and bribery, and sentenced to imprisonment.
Protea Wealth Management
This was also an unregulated business. It was incorporated in November 2010 and dissolved March 2014. Stuart John Stone was the co-director.
C&PP explained to FOS that it was its understanding that, at the time of the events in this complaint, Protea had applied for authorisation from the FCA, and says Mr Stone gave it a reference number for an application he said had been made to the FCA.
Portwood Financial Services Ltd
Portwood Financial Services Ltd, also known as otheroptions.co.uk, was an unregulated business.
C&PP says it was not aware of this business, or its involvement with Liquid Financial Limited.
It seemed likely there was no such registered company at the time of the events this complaint is about.
We urge investors not to confuse the people using this trading name, with a company, only incorporated in 2012, dealing in sports equipment.
Unsuitable Pension Transfer or Investment Advice
If you had dealings with any of the firms involved and transferred your pension or invested money, you may have been given unsuitable advice and therefore should get your transaction reviewed by a claims expert.
This also applies to you if you received statements showing that your pension had been performing well, when in fact the investments were falling in value and were illiquid meaning you were not able to sell them and still cannot recover any value remaining.
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