One of the directors of Hartley Pensions has come under fire for sending an unauthorised letter to members of the pension schemes.
Hartley went into administration in July 2022 at the request of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), just weeks after it was ordered to stop accepting contributions into its Sipps and to halt transfers.
Tony Flanagan, who is also a director of the companies that act as trustees of the Hartley Sipp, sent a letter to members without the agreement of joint administrators Peter Kubik and Brian Johnson of UHY Hacker Young, nor of the FCA, the regulator said.
The watchdog added that the letter contained “factual inaccuracies which may have caused customers concerns”, but neither the FCA nor the administrators revealed what was actually said in the communication.
The regulator added: “Customers’ existing pension assets are currently unaffected by the firm going into administration. They are held by trustee firms, which are not regulated by the FCA and have not entered into insolvency. Pension assets cannot be removed without appropriate consent.
“It is for the administrators to determine how the costs of transferring customers’ Sipps to alternative regulated Sipp operators should be charged. However, if any deductions are required to be made from customers’ Sipps, then the administrators will be required to make an application to court and any fees would be subject to the oversight of the court.”
Sale is far away
Kubik and Johnson also provided an update on the situation following Flanagan’s unapproved letter.
After reiterating that the contents of the communication were “factually incomplete and inaccurate”, the joint administrators revealed they have not been able to secure a sale of the Hartley Pensions Sipp business so far.
“As such, the administrators are in the process of structuring a court approved plan to transfer out clients’ Sipps on an individual or bulk basis.”
Members will receive communications from the administrators about this, which “will explain the timescales involved but it is not expected that this process will conclude prior to the first quarter of 2023”.
Kubik and Johnson continued: “With regards to the Ssas book, a sale is likely to be agreed shortly and it is expected that a sale of the Ssas business will complete by the first quarter of 2023 with Ssas clients transferred to a new operator. Clients are not required to do anything at this stage, but we will notify all clients once the more detailed communications are issued.”
International Adviser has contacted Flanagan for a comment, but he did not reply in time for publication.