Financial Ombudsman Service Upholds a Complaint Against C.I.B Life & Pensions
The Financial Ombudsman Service upheld a complaint against Kent-based advice firm C.I.B Life & Pensions, relating to a client who invested their pension savings in Harlequin Property.
The Harlequin Property group of companies marketed and built overseas luxury property developments and is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
The complaint was made by a client who attended a presentation where C.I.B Life & Pensions explained how self-invested personal pensions (SIPP) worked and Harlequin Property offered investors the opportunity to invest directly, and in some instances through a self-invested personal pension (SIPP), into resorts developed in the Caribbean.
C.I.B Life & Pensions presentation slides included two separate definitions of a SIPP, the first being a self-invested personal pension, which is the correct meaning. The second being ‘Simple; Income & Capital Gains Tax Efficient Way; Purchasing Property’.
After the presentation, the client expressed interest in investing in Harlequin Property and paid a reservation fee. She contacted C.I.B Life & Pensions and they sent her a direct offer pack, which stated that this type of pension is bespoke and that C.I.B Life & Pensions was not making any recommendations concerning suitability.
The client returned the relevant forms back to C.I.B Life & Pensions and transferred all of her personal pensions to the self-invested personal pension (SIPP) in order to begin the investment into Harlequin Property. The total she invested was just under £45,000.
She complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service that C.I.B Life & Pensions gave her unsuitable advice during the presentation and throughout the process. They advised her to transfer her existing pensions to a Family Pension Trust, meaning she invested in an unsuitable commercial property in the Caribbean.
The Financial Ombudsman Service declared that C.I.B Life & Pensions incorrectly classified the client as a professional and didn’t give sufficient risk warnings about the investments. They ordered C.I.B Life & Pensions to pay the difference between the value of the SIPP and the value of the client’s existing pensions would have held, plus £300 for the distress and inconvenience caused.