Ombudsman finalising decisions on British Steel complaints

Grievances about cash equivalent transfer values and early retirement factors

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has accepted 229 complaints against the trustees of the British Steel Pensions Scheme (BSPS), it has confirmed in a freedom of information request.

There were 178 complaints surrounding cash equivalent transfer values (CETV) and 51 complaints about early retirement factors (ERF).

Due to the nature of the work, steelworkers are allowed to retire early and can access benefits (which may be reduced) from the age of 55, subject to employer agreement.

TPO said in the freedom of information request: “All of these include a complaint point about the information, or lack of, provided by the BSPS Trustee.”

The ombudsman admitted that it was dealing with three lead cases among the 178 CETV complaints, and one lead case in relation to the ERF complaints – but no outcome had been determined.

It added: “We are currently in the process of finalising the ombudsman’s preliminary decisions on the lead cases which will be shared with the applicant of that lead case (and/or the applicants representative of that lead case) and the trustee.”

There was no timescale given for the release of the decisions as there could be need for further investigation.

Transfer scandal

In December 2017, BSPS members were asked to shift their defined benefit pensions to another plan; stay in the fund, which was moved to the Pension Protection Fund as British Steel was closing its existing scheme; or transfer out.

Some of those opting for the last option became entangled in a scandal which saw financial advisers encourage steelworkers to transfer their DB pots to other investment.

This resulted in a lot of people investing their money in self-invested personal pension schemes (Sipps) that held esoteric, high-risk overseas funds.

In January, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) said it is looking to compensate former members of the BSPS for upfront costs associated with the advice they received to transfer their pensions from advisory firm Active Wealth, which is in liquidation.

To date, FSCS has paid around £1.1m in compensation to former Active Wealth clients, including former BSPS members.

International Adviser also reported on an independent review into the handling of the BSPS scandal, which highlighted some basic mistakes that put workers at risk.

It found both Tata Steel, which owns British Steel, and the regulators made basic mistakes, after steelworkers were told that the firm’s pension scheme was closing.

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