TPR busts Audax and its trustee – slow but sure turn the wheels of justice!

Over four and a half years after I smelled a pension rat, I am pleased to see that the Pensions Regulator has issued a determination that puts an end to the dodgy practices surrounding the Audax Pension Scheme.  I blew the whistle on Audax in May 2015 reporting it to Action Fraud and the Pensions Regulator. At the time, its administrator was Gallium, a firm who visited me at my home to explain that unless I took down my warning about Audax, I would be served with legal action.

Gallium  returned to my attention when tracing money leaving the British Steel Pension Scheme on the advice of Active Wealth Management. They administrators other failed ventures including Strand and Vega, both of which were marketed to steelworkers with some success.

I am pleased that the original blog has survived though some of the links haven’t. Audax and its sister master trusts (most of which seem to have been fantasy creations) only took in just over £1m of investor’s money and Gallium jumped ship as administrator, soon after I made it clear I’d smelled a rat. You can read the Pensions Regulator’s determination here.  

As well as threats from Gallium, I got a ticking off from the Pensions Regulator for potentially alerting those involved. I wrote separately about this in a blog called “Telling tales or tipping off” ,explaining how frustrating it is to see how a worthless scheme like Audax could promote itself with impunity. I was proved right then and I hope that TPR may consider that my strong words at the time were fully justified. Common sense has a part to play.

The TPR’s Warning Notice details complaints received from eight scheme members between March 2017 and September 2019, as usual alarm bells started ringing only when members were seen to be in trouble. But these alarm bells could and should have been ringing two years earlier. The wheels turned so slowly that it took three and a half years from the arrival of the first member complaint to the delivery of the determination. Add these timeframes together and you can see how 54 months passes by.

54 months may be a long time to get a determination but I better late than never. The determination suggests that despite my tip off, money continued to flow into Audax, long after my visit to Brighton and this is regrettable

Surely there are easier ways of stopping rogue trustees.  I wonder if a sledgehammer has been used to crack this nut. Nonetheless, it is good to see that this scheme (with links to many others) was stopped in its tracks. Our thoughts are with the victims that were caught in it, let’s hope that Dalriada can do the right thing by them.

I smell a (pensions) rat – what can I do?

ratAn advert appeared yesterday on the Pension Play Pen Linked In Group.. If you’re in our Group, you can see it here The organisation – Save My Pension is offering a “route to market” with the message from its Director Danny Smith 

I have meeting availability in London Central on Tues/Weds next week to discuss our pension route to market, process, systems and commercials. Availability is tight so please let me know as soon as possible

If I had the first clue about what was on offer, I might be interested. I checked out Save my Pension (a trading style of HCL consulting). They are lead generators This is what their company page told me..

We provide a free service to help you take control of your retirement provision. We can; Help you trace your preserved (also widely known as frozen) pension and, once located, provide you with a free review of its current status – Amount, charges being applied and the performance of your fund. Whether you use our tracing service or already have all your information about your preserved pension we can provide you with details of an alternative occupational pension scheme you can compare and (should you decide) transfer your preserved pension(s) to. Want advice on what to do with your pension? We can put you in touch with an independent financial adviser who will provide you with the advice you need.

I couldn’t get my head round this so Danny sent me more details

I promote an occupation pension scheme called Audax. It’s run by independent trustees solely for the benefits of its clients. It has section 280 administrator (not needed), an FCA regulated administration Comoany (not needed) and we have Beavis Morgan as our auditors. Our sponsoring employee actually has staff who are enrolled on the scheme. We do not charge for joint the scheme, there are no exit fees and the client is onky 0.75 annual with projected return of 5% net of fees.

Audax has a sponsoring employer – a  company called Refined By Ltd, situated close to Save my Pension’s Preston offices in Lancaster. Apparently Refined By has employees who are in Audax – I can see no evidence of any trading activity. The company is classified as providing IT services and was incorporated in April 2014. Because Refined By Ltd. sponsors the occupational scheme it can be registered and regulated.

The Scheme is a Registered Scheme with HMRC in accordance with Part IV of the Finance Act 2004 under PSTR number 00817080RY.

The Scheme is registered with the Pensions Regulator in accordance with the Occupational pension Schemes (Scheme Administration) Regulations 1996 and Pensions Act 2004 under PSR number 12010036.

It has legitimacy though there is nothing substantial about the use of the word occupational.

The trustees of Audax are Audax Management, the investment managers a firm called Gallium.  I have met with Gallium and am confident that they are ensuring that Audax is compliant with FCA regulations.

There is nothing about Save My Pension,Refined By, Audax or Gallium that I can point to as illegal. They have multiple registrations with the FCA and Gallium employs respected advisors and auditors.

Audax Management Ltd has been in existence for 8 months (company no 09197665). It is one of 2700 companies at its registered office- there are no details about its Directors or officers and it is the trustee of the pension.

The administration of the pension is through Gallium though the transfers seem to be operating through an IFA in East Sussex called Absolute Financial Management (trading as Blueprint for the purpose of administrating transfers). Blueprint shows as its Director – Mark Eaton – Mark is also a Director of Absolute Financial Management, BluePrint is registered at the same address as Audax.

Again, I have no reason to doubt that Mark and Absolute are acting within the law. But why should there be so many moving parts and why can I find so little to connect them?

There are many ways to provide yourself with financial security in retirement. I strongly suggest you stick to the trodden paths and think very hard about using services such as those outlined above. Transparency is key to this and I am very concerned that people should know what they are doing. The alternative investment strategy suggested on the Audax website do not encourage me.

The Trustee has identified legal financing schemes as a potential alternative investment that satisfies the investment principles.

The UK legal system is an established market place from which many other legal systems around the world take their lead.  The demand for funding in legal markets is growing and is unaffected by the core financial markets.

But  Legal Financing is not necessarily a low-risk investment, read this .

Things can go wrong as they have here…

Receivers of the troubled Axiom Legal Financing Funds have brought claims against a number of parties in London’s High Court which are “considered to have acted fraudulently” in relation to “sums up to £110m”. 

Nor am I greatly encouraged by the statements about the core strategy

The Scheme will invest in Multi-Manager investment schemes and products that are provided by, and managed by, leading investment houses and banks

Who the people are in Audax Management is not clear, they have no footprint on the web. Nor do we have any details of the funds into which your money is invested. As to what all this costs the consumer, we are left only with the most general statement of intent, that it intends to achieve an investment return of 5% after fees and charges. There are risk warnings, don’t expect to see a transfer value equivalent to what you paid in if you change your mind.

You may transfer out of the Scheme at any time, but please note you should consider investment in the Scheme as a long term investment. The Trustee would prefer Members to remain invested in the Scheme for a minimum of five years to allow the Investment Manager to build a diversified investment portfolio for all Members.

Just how this works for people wishing to exercise their pension freedoms is unclear.

Operating in the same space with Save my Pension are a host of similar organisations, marketing services that exist in the demi-monde of financial services – Smart Wealth, Mayday Pensions, FirstChoice Pensions, Castle Pension Solutions, Total Pension Review, Easy Review, Pro Money Ltd (Wise Review), Pension Protect Ltd to name but a few.

All offer free reviews, all offer alternative investment strategies and all seem to be fronted by people with a background in lead generation or debt management. We know where the problem is, we are assailed by offers to work with these people, a strong and determined Regulator must get to grips with these firms and weed out the bad apples.

But we can do little more than hope that such action will be taken. Till then we will have these annoying flies buzzing around our heads. But I fear some of these flies carry viruses which will eat into the savings of those we want to help and in so doing , destroy confidence in the pension system we are trying to rebuild. I am meeting with one of the Executive Directors of the Pension Regulator at the end of the week and hope that I can discuss this with him. I smell a rat, and that’s the best that I can do.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to TPR busts Audax and its trustee – slow but sure turn the wheels of justice!

  1. Pingback: Whatever happened to the managers of the steelworker’s SIPPs? | AgeWage: Making your money work as hard as you do

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