Tony Hetherington is the ace investigator on Sunday’s Financial Mail, fighting readers’ corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and securing victory for those left out of pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Probe: Martin Vaughn ran Clear Capital Management, which was spun off by Companies House
GJ writes: In 2018, I took £115,000 from my Jaguar Land Rover pension fund and put the rest in a SIP with wealth manager Huntsman Hawkes.
He asked the Ecentric Platform firm to put in only £132,000 in corporate bonds. The Huntsman Hawks collapsed, and my replacement sip firm said they wanted nothing to do with the corporate bond because they thought it was toxic.
The bonds have since been delisted, and I may not get my money back.
Tony Hetherington replies: This has been one of my worst inquiries in a long time, with a cast list that threatens to be as large as a telephone directory, so please forgive me if I amend some complicated details.
Moving away from a defined benefit pension plan is rarely a good idea, but you wanted a lump sum amount for family reasons, and shifting to a SIP may attract you.
You consulted The Advisor Partnership Ltd., a firm on the Public Register of the Financial Conduct Authority, and it introduced you to Huntsman Hawkes Ltd., which is also FCA-approved. However, in 2020, the advisory partnership was compulsorily discontinued by the Companies House.
Huntsman Hawks reviewed Your Finances and recommends an SIP administered by Ecentric Platform but with investments managed by another company, Clear Capital Management LLP.
Oddly, it was the Huntsman Hawks – not explicit capital management – who instructed Escentric to put a large piece of your pension money in debt notes issued by Corporate Finance Bonds Ltd, which was listed on the stock exchange in Dublin at the time. , but since being de-listed .
In August 2019, Huntsman Hawkes fell into administration, and in the same month Clear Capital Management revealed it was the target of an FCA investigation and halted almost all activity before being compulsorily shut down by Companies House in June of this year.
In fact, only the eccentric, which performed only administrative functions, has gone unheard.
So where does this leave your loan notes? These have been swallowed up in recovery notes from another firm, Heritage Corporate Finance, a specialist business that manages the systematic closing of financial instruments that go wrong.
And its owner, Mark Anskoff, told me that your loan notes were ‘not suitable for retail investors and were not made available to them’.
However, Martin Vaughn, who runs Clear Capital Management, explained that he simply created a ‘model portfolio’ that consisted of a range of different investments.
He told me: ‘The suitability of the model portfolio for each individual client was assessed and determined by the financial advisor.’
He was dean foreman of the financial advisor Huntsman Hawks. But he told me that he believes model portfolios contain ‘standard assets’ suitable for ordinary investors, and that what goes into those portfolios tends to be clear capital management. In short, it looks like they looked at the headline label, not what went into the portfolio, heavily loaded with corporate IOUs.
The result is that Clear Capital Management manufactured the gun, but the Huntsman Hawks pulled the trigger; You were just a victim, trusting the professionals.
Your loan notes may still make some payments, although this will not be known until at least next year, but it is likely that you have lost more than the Financial Services Compensation Scheme limit of £85,000.
Your advisory firm was Huntsman Hawkes, so I asked Director Dean Foreman to say which insurer provided their professional indemnity cover, as it could benefit you. He replied: ‘I’m afraid I can’t remember who our PI insurance was with.’ All this happened two years ago, he said.
It’s likely that FCA records hold the answer for both Huntsman Hawkes and Clear Capital Management, so I asked the regulator for details. That was five months ago in May. The answer was promised but never arrived.
Your next stop should be the compensation plan, which can open FCA’s record, failing which you have grounds for complaint against FCA.
Why does Mercer keep stonewalling its payments?
Ms Ag writes: I retired in August after working at Morrison for 16 years, and a month ago I applied to Mercer, the company that operates the Morrison pension plan, to say I wanted my small pension pot outright.
When I retired I expected money, but I got nothing.
Conflict: Getting information from Mercer was like extracting a tooth from a sad crocodile
Tony Hetherington replies: You told me you emailed Mercer, but only got an automated reply saying that someone would contact you. And when you threatened to go to the Pension Ombudsman, Mercer replied that it would pay you in a few weeks.
As you told me: ‘If I still worked for Morrison and didn’t get paid on time, it would be unacceptable, so why should Mercer’s conduct be any different?’
It’s a good question, but it doesn’t have an answer. When I contacted Mercer, it responded a fortnight later, saying you have now been paid.
Why was there delay? Mercer said: ‘In line with company procedures, we do not comment on individual members.’ Mercer then declined to comment on why it declined to comment. It contained your signed consent, which allowed it to talk to me, but chose to ignore it.
Despite being a large pension company, Mercer has a form for it. Last March, I reported that it withheld a widow’s pension, demanding that she pay £208, claiming it overpaid her late husband.
Taking information from Mercer was like taking out a tooth…