Dalriada are a firm of pension trustees who divide their business into “Regular” and “Irregular” business. Brian Spence who runs the business was prepared to talk to me about “Irregular business”. Members of, and employers participating in, the NOW master trust will be pleased to know that Dalriada consider them as “regular business” confirming what is already in the public domain, that Dalriada were invited by NOW to become trustees – and not the Pensions Regulator.
Not all Dalriada’s appointments are at the behest of existing trustees. The Pensions Regulator has been given the right to appoint its own trustees under Section 7 of the Pensions Act 1995 Dalriada are generally appointed to this work after a competitive tender, other firms appointed to schemes of this type are believed to include Pi Consulting and ITS.
Irregular business is typically work where Dalriada replace existing trustees in executive duties and take responsibility for the management of the pension scheme. Importantly they do not work for the Pensions Regulator or HMRC or any other public agency. However, they may get special support from public organisations and work closely with the police, action fraud and the regulators.
This is because there is typically a high level of suspicion surrounding irregular schemes. The first such scheme that Dalriada took on (in 2011) were the “Ark” pension schemes. This was a pension liberation arrangement. I was shown the good and bad of the scheme management; the good surrounded the high level of asset recovery, the bad the difficulties agreeing the member’s liabilities to taxation as most payments made by the scheme prior to Dalriada’s appointment were unauthorised, illegal and potentially subject to penal tax recovery.
I was given insights into a number of other schemes, well known to those, like Angie Brooks, who have tried to stand in the path of pension scammers. These include London Quantum, a particularly egregious arrangement which managed to both misinvest and mislead simultaneously. Dalriada were keen not to use the word “fraud” in describing the various irregular schemes it acted for, but the whiff of malpractice was prevalent.
What impressed me most in our conversation, was its lack of emotion. Clearly the people in the room who had direct dealings with those who had lost their pensions had suffered considerable trauma, albeit one step removed from the financial calamity of those they were helping. I was impressed by the people I spoke to who supported victims of what are clearly gross injustices.
I was also impressed by the professionalism and deliberation of the senior managers in our meeting. They accepted that in hindsight, decisions could have been different, but I was satisfied that – despite the desperate plight of many I have dealt with who have been on the wrong side of the scams – they had been diligent in the carriage of their duties.
That said, I remain unconvinced that the British legal system is working properly for either Dalriada or the members of the schemes it acts for. I am far from convinced that HMRC are sufficiently agile to deal with the sensitivities of fraud victims.
I am absolutely convinced that there is no sense in pursuing victims of liberation frauds for money. The current plans to tax such victims on the capital of loans they had unwittingly made to others is against all common justice. It is no deterrent to future scammers, who will not be inconvenienced by the financial ruin of victims. It has no practical relevance to the current scamming of members, as these are not involving liberation.
What became obvious during our meeting and has absolute relevance to today is that the best way to recover from pension scamming is not to let it happen in the first place. This is why it is so important that the FCA act on the numerous whistle blowing reports coming out of Port Talbot and not let money from BSPS flow into the hands of villains.
The speed with which the FCA are currently acting is most welcome (and in sharp contrast to the pace of restitution for the victims of scams past).