The case was heard in Bristol, in the south-west England, on 15 November 2017. The purpose of the hearing was to determine if eight separate claims could be combined under a group litigation order (GLO).
Some of the claims were individual, while other involved groups – one bringing together 30 people.
Other potential claimants are understood to be in the pipeline and could double the current cohort of 77 and go as high as 200.
The case revolves around losses following the alleged mis-selling of Sipps by Berkeley Burke after investors transferred into the pension product having been introduced to the firm by nine “relevant introducers”.
The individual Sipp investments ranged from £6,000 to £160,000 ($221,166, €180,492).
In the skeleton argument put before the judge, it was suggested that, over a six-year period, as many as 6,000 investors may have been introduced to Berkeley Burke.
Forestry in Fiji
The claimants argue that the introducers carried out regulated activity for which they did not have permissions, breached Financial Conduct Authority conduct of business rules and gave negligent advice in recommending the Sipp.
Berkeley Burke refutes the allegation that it mis-sold the investment and stated that each Sipp was set up on an execution-only basis – negating the need for it to assess suitability.
The underlying investments ranged from forestry in Australia or Fiji to a residential property in Arkansas and a holiday apartment in Granada.
None of the nine types of investment was regulated.
Move to London
Presiding judge Russen determined: “I am […] minded to make the GLO and propose to seek the president [of the bench’s] consent to one being made”.
The judge declined, however, to transfer the case to London and the Royal Courts of Justice.
The defendants contended that a London court would be a more appropriate venue than Bristol for a “nationwide claim”.
Russen disagreed and declined to make the transfer order.