The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has banned Susan Jones and Simon Lewis from providing advice on transfers and pension opt-outs. This action was taken due to the unsuitable advice given to clients of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) when they were employed at West Wales Financial Services (WWFS). The company is now in liquidation. Additionally, Simon Lewis has been prohibited from holding any senior management positions in regulated firms by the FCA.
The two individuals were ordered to pay a total of £67,688 to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme as a contribution to the compensation owed to WWFS customers.
Between March and December 2017, WWFS provided unsuitable pension transfer advice based on the incorrect assumption that it would be in their client's best interests to transfer out of their secure defined benefit pension schemes. In total 27 out of 28 clients transferred out of their defined benefit pension scheme, with 25 being members of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS). In total, £9.8m was transferred to riskier defined contribution schemes.
As part of his oversight role, Lewis was responsible for ensuring that WWFS provided suitable advice. However, he failed to fulfil this responsibility.
The FCA intervened to stop WWFS from processing transfers for an additional 141 members of the BSPS. This intervention prevented the possibility of further loss, as if left unchecked these clients may have transferred out funds worth £43.7m. Thanks to the FCA's timely intervention, the risk of loss was mitigated.
Therese Chambers, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, stated that Jones and Lewis' carelessness and incompetence put people's hard-earned pensions at risk.
"They would have continued to provide bad advice to many more had it not been for the FCA's timely intervention. People need someone they can trust to give them informed advice on their financial future - and it's not these two."
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