Putting things right with the lawyers
I’m pleased to see that efforts are being made to meet Mr N’s legal fees , working out how to get restitution to the Northumberland Police’s pension scheme. Though he was successful in getting back in the scheme, the ombudsman did not grant him his costs arguing that he could have fought the case without recourse to professional advice.
I suspect that the Pensions Ombudsman also had it in mind to slam the door shut in the face of countless ambulance chasers keen to make a killing on no-win no-fee deals in Mr N’s wake.
The fact remains that Mr N has not got the money to pay his fees and since he has opened the door to people similarly unfortunate, it is good that people are rallying around. I understand that there is a pending criminal case to follow, it is important that Mr N’s anonymity is maintained for the moment.
Putting things right with the trustees
I’m also pleased to hear that there is last a conversation being had between the person organising the victims of fraud’s affairs (Angie Brooks) and those acting as trustees of the majority of the derelict schemes which the scammers used to steal the victim’s money.
We shouldn’t forget that the first port of call, to finance the restitution of Mr N’s pension will be the London Quadrant pension scheme – or what’s left of it after pillage from the original scammers.
The judgement will no doubt have come as a surprise to the trustees who are now subject to the unwelcome scrutiny of those seeking these funds (ironically the police pension fund). While I am sure that nothing is amiss in the trustee’s management , I am sure they feel that further claims on their primary source of remuneration (the remaining member’s fund), less than helpful.
Of course the vast majority of the management fees in cases like this are to lawyers.
Calling casuistry when you see it!
If you’re beginning to detect an anti-lawyer thread in this blog, you are right. Thomas Jefferson famously said “It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and to talk by the hour”. The lawyers have been talking by the hour over the Pensions Ombudsman’s determination against the Northumbrian Police and for Mr N and the London lawyers are very far from happy.
That is because no ordinary person can afford a London lawyer’s fees , meaning that they rely solely on trustees, regulators and employers for a maintenance of their very reasonable lifestyles.
These lawyers have no masters but their clients and their clients are under threat from Mr N and his like.
Let us remember that Mr N took financial advice from a regulated pension transfer specialist – as he was told to by the FCA. He transferred his money out of his defined benefit pension scheme – as he was advised to by his IFA. He transferred his money into an occupational pension scheme that had been given its status by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customers and he sought restitution as he was supposed to, through the Pensions Ombudsman. The only thing that Anthony Arter found he had done amiss, was to employ lawyers.
But this has not stopped the lawyers from finding Mr N to be the architect of his own demise..
In an opinion piece, published in Professional Pensions, Edward Brown , a pension lawyer at Hogan Lovells has delivered the following judgement on Mr N.
It is easy to feel sympathy for Mr N – who has potentially lost all of his benefits in a scam. But it is a regrettable feature of 21st century life to conclude that if something bad happens to someone then someone else – with the means to pay – must be at fault. One can conclude that the authority is not to blame without needing to believe that Mr N is the author of his own misfortune.
This is extremely sophisticated (as in employing sophistry). Without committing himself to any view, Edward Brown allows us to read that Mr N is the author of his own misfortune. What does Edward Brown think? Does he subscribe to the views of 21st century life or not? Who is this “one” that’s making this conclusion? There is not “one” voice here – but several – the inference is clear as the lawyer dances on his pin with glee.
Edward Brown hides behind periphrastic phraseology and earns significant brownie points from other lawyers for implying Mr N is the architect of his own misfortune – without calling him it.
This kind of thing may work in legal circles Edward Brown, but it does not work with me.
I hope that Edward Brown has the opportunity in time to meet with Mr N and with others like them. They are the people who uphold the law and who assume that IFAs and pension scheme trustees and fund managers are honest. They do so because they believe in the legal system, the HMRC, the FSA (as it then was) and the Pensions Regulator.
For a member of the legal system to infer Mr N the author of his own misfortune is tantamount to siding with all the breakdowns in the judicial system that led to an innocent man – who did what he was told -being put through three years of intense anguish.
But of course Edward Brown said no such thing – the rhetoric said it for him. This is worse than sophistry – this is casuistry. This is the use of the legal system to say one thing and get away with saying it altogether.
Natural justice alive and well in the 21st century
I have sat in the Royal Courts of Justice and seen the treatment meted out to the victims of the Ark Pension Scam, people like Susan Flood (who can take some comfort from this determination). I have seen lawyers call on judges to “poke the victims with sharp sticks”. I have seen victims break down in tears for shame of their actions – when they have behaved admirably. All this has happened because of the cruelty of lawyers who have apply the letter of the law not its principles, who push legal niceties before natural justice.
I have had the chance to meet Mr N and speak with him. I know other members of the Northumbrian Police Force and no-one thinks Mr N a chancer – he was and still is a very good policeman.
It is extremely hard for us privileged professional class to have any idea of how hard pensions are to them. Mr N put his trust in the system and agreed to pay its fees and he was let down – not just by those who advised him, but by those who could have protected them – and according to the Pensions Ombudsman’s verdict – didn’t.
Mr N had one advantage, he was not intimidated by lawyers. That is why he persisted and why he is back in his scheme.
No doubt there will be many training courses arranged for trustees by lawyers to help trustees do the due diligence that Northumbria Police did not do. No doubt there will be administrators looking at their files for instances of their allowing transfers into London Quadrant and schemes like it. No doubt there will be a few squeaky bums in the offices of some of the IFAs – over the forthcoming criminal proceedings and no doubt lawyers will be making money from all of this.
Lawyers are paid to keep people on the right side of the law, they are not paid to vilify those who do the right thing and then get ripped off.
This message to Edward Brown and anyone else inferring Mr N “the author of his own misfortune”, is that they remember there is a higher law than that which we serve – there is natural justice, I applaud Anthony Arter for siding with natural justice.