Regrettably, we’re seeing yet another SIPP provider, Corporate & Professional Pensions (C&PP), face serious issues. The firm’s directors have had no choice but to place the firm into administration, given the wave of complaints that the Financial Ombudsman Services has upheld against them.
High-risk, Unregulated Investments – A Recipe for Disaster
Not long ago, C&PP found itself on the hook for compensation payments to three clients. The issue? These clients were led to invest in the Platinum Agroforestry programme offered by Sustainable AgroEnergy (SA) – a high-risk, unregulated investment hardly suitable for the average retail investor.
C&PP’s due diligence, or lack thereof:
- C&PP relied on a due diligence report from Citadel Trustees concerning the investment. However, it appears that SA had instructed Citadel’s report, which leaves us questioning the independence of the due diligence process.
- C&PP was alarmingly open to introductions and investment instructions from unregulated introducers, even accepting 185 introductions from the same group of unregulated firms!
As a result, the Ombudsman found the provider’s due diligence process wanting, leaving clients vulnerable to financial losses.
Many Unregulated Firms Were Involved:
Citadel Trustees / Highpoint Trustees
- Citadel was an FCA regulated firm until May 2020. The main concern was their questionable due diligence on non-standard investments.
- They were implicated in investments such as Sustainable AgroEnergy Plc, EcoPlanet Bamboo, Merco Bonds, Forest Lakes, Global Forestry Investments and Eco-Synergies Ltd.
S J Stone Ltd
- Stuart John Stone, the director of this unregulated business, had a reputation for introducing clients to SIPP operators.
- After prosecution by the Serious Fraud Office, Stone was charged with various fraud and bribery offences and was subsequently imprisoned.
Protea Wealth Management
- Another unregulated business, co-directed by Stuart John Stone.
- Despite claiming to have applied for FCA authorisation, it’s unclear if this was the case.
Portwood Financial Services Ltd
- An unregulated business with no apparent connection to C&PP.
Key Takeaway: If You’re in Doubt, Get It Checked Out!
If you’ve had dealings with any of these firms and transferred your pension or invested money, you might have received unsuitable advice. Don’t rest on your laurels, even if your statements show a rosy picture. It’s worth getting your transaction reviewed by a claims expert, especially if your investments have plummeted in value or have become illiquid. Remember, an informed investor is a protected investor.