I’ve lost my pension pot – somewhere in Germany – what should I do?


I’ve lost my pension pot…

The BBC has made an excellent program building on last year’s exposure of problems at Dolphin Capital. At that time alarm bells were beginning to ring for thousands of UK investors in Dolphin’s bonds. The bonds had been marketed to people with pensions and savings in the UK by direct marketing from abroad, as well as authorised and unauthorized advisers in the UK.  The 2019 You and Yours program was promoted on this blog in an article I called Grand Designs.

The point of promoting the problem was to alert consumers to the perils of investing in something as intrinsically attractive as these Dolphin bonds; they were marketed to a template based on four  hooks which are the template for most unreliable investment schemes

1)    Plausibility. The Dolphin investment sounded plausible – it’s German, therefore reliable. It’s property, therefore tangible.

2)    Tax related – always a winner. Often mask the fact that the investment itself isn’t sound – but the fabulous tax breaks make it sound like it is

3)    High digit returns promise – 10% plus should sound an alarm bell to everyone but the financially vulnerable

and what wasn’t disclosed to investors but which was key to introducers

4)    High Commissions – which incentivise people to sell – and to people high risk investments aren’t suitable for.

It was almost possible for  an introducer to take a 20% commission and consider he/she had done the due diligence, in some cases introducers were flown to Berlin to see Dolphin Capital’s investments. It should be no surprise that marketing focused on countries (Britain, Ireland, Singapore and Japan) where many people are obsessed by property investment.


Somewhere in Germany

The latest You and Yours makes it plain that while Dolphin started off being open about its investments, those who have invested in the past few years have been given no idea where their money has gone and much of the program was spent on Dolphin sites which had not been developed, had been over-mortgaged or in one case, was claimed to be a Dolphin site but turned out never to have been purchased at all. While early investments may have been in prime sites (in Berlin for instance), latterly investor’s money had been spent on property in the back of beyond , some of it never even visited by Dolphin’s management. In short – what was sold as geographically sound, was anything but.

Geography is also important here, because though it is estimated that over 6,000 people in the UK bought into Dolphin bonds, it looks like most of what was going on fell outside the FCA’s “regulatory perimeter”.  Consequently most investors will have no recourse to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and will have to stand in the queue of unsecured creditors awaiting the liquidation of Dolphin’s assets following the bankruptcy of Dolphin Capital.

As with the recent scandals surrounding the regulation of LCF and Connaught investments and the mis-selling of pension transfers, the FCA have been slow to the case. The first notice on its website was posted in October of this year

This despite the You and Yours program in May 2019 and the growing protestations of investors that money promised was not being returned to them. The FCA’s statement confirms that most of what was going on was not on its watch but that it is liasing with the Financial Ombudsman and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme as to what can be done for those who invested through FCA authorised SIPPs and other pension products.

This has prompted former FCA director and consumer champion Mick McAteer to tweet

I agree with Mick, we need our regulators to find a way to pick up on the tsunami  before and not after the wave has broken. This wave is likely to be bigger even than LCF and Connaught and more destructive – it is thought that more than £1bn of investor’s money may have been lost to Dolphin.


What you should I do if I am a Dolphin investor?

I did act as an adviser to the program and comment at the end of the program. My advice to those people who have money in Dolphin Bonds is to get in the queue (either for FSCS) or for a pay-out from the liquidators now. If you are such a person and want to know what to do next , you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service either directly or via the Money and Pension Service.

How to complain to the Ombudsman service if the firm you dealt with is still trading

You should immediately contact the financial services firm that you have dealt with (for example, the financial adviser who advised you to invest in the GPG scheme and/or SIPP operator through which the money was invested) and submit a complaint. This means that the firm must take certain actions within certain time limits.

If you are unhappy with the response received from the firm, or do not hear from them within the relevant time period required by the FCA, the Ombudsman service may be able to help. It is a free and easy to use service that settles complaints between consumers and businesses that provide financial services.

It is important to note that every complaint to the Ombudsman service will be judged on its own individual merits. Further information on how to complain can be found here.


But what of those who did not invest via their FCA regulated pension?

The FCA website can only help those who invested through their pension but I have no “regulatory perimeter” – it is important that someone is helping those people termed “cash investors” who did not use their pension money but paid for their bonds directly.

Although the program did not refer to this, I understand that there is likely to be a criminal investigation about what happened to Dolphin investor’s money. If such an investigation finds against Charles Smethurst and the management of what is now the German Property Group, then there may be further avenues for compensation.

But for now the prospects for cash investors are limited.

These people are now being assailed by a number of claims companies , many purporting to have semi-official status. I strongly advise (if you are a cash investor) you are wary of all of them and direct any correspondence to Goerg – the lawyers in charge of the administration

The person to contact is Tim Beyer, whose details are here

Tim Beyer – insolvency partner at Goerg

 

 

 

 

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to I’ve lost my pension pot – somewhere in Germany – what should I do?

  1. Eugen N says:

    As you said it, the majority of these investors invested based on marketing (mostly online). I did not hear that financial advisors were involved, I am not say it there was none, but very few cases.

    I am not sure what the FOS position against the SIPP providers which allowed these investments would be, but I suppose FOS positions should be based by Law cases, especially the last one where the High Court explained the extent of which a SIPP provider should go -> Adams v Carey SIPP.

    As an investor, you cannot have it both ways: you cannot pay for advice and due diligence, but expect some pension provider to do this work for you. You either hire a professional or you carry all the blame. You cannot have it both ways. The contract they entered with the SIPP providers was clear, they arranged investments chosen by the investor- the clue is in its name “Self invested pension plan” i.e. self-inesting!

    Investors have three choices: hire financial advisors, use retirement pathways provided by pension providers, or self-invest. If they choose the third option, they better know what they are doing as there is no safety net. It is time ro grow up.

  2. henry tapper says:

    I agree with your analysis Eugen, the trouble is that most of the self-investors I’ve heard from didn’t seem to understand what was going on. There is a lot in what Mick McAteer says, we need to work this out in a proper way or we will just get more of these scandals

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