The British Steel pension transfer controversy has taken a strange twist as the unregulated introducer accused of running 'chicken and chips' meetings with steelworkers told MPs it was in fact serving sausages with chips at these meetings.
Celtic Wealth accused the media and others of 'scaremongering' about the business and its dealings with members of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS).
Many reports have accused firms of using 'chicken and chip' meetings to meet steel workers and present options to transfer. It is unclear whether any directly accused Celtic Wealth of doing this, but the introducer attacked such accusations in a letter to the Work and Pensions Committee.
‘A few meetings were arranged in a local public house where a large plate of chips and sausages were supplied. Never chicken and chips,’ the letter stressed.
It also said it had not engaged in 'factory gating' by giving out leaflets to British Steel employees leaving work.
Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field appeared unimpressed with the claims made in the letter.
'I’m also interested to hear what benefits these unregulated "introducers" think they offer to clients besides chicken, or as Celtic Wealth insists, sausage, and chips lunches,' he said.
Last week unregulated introducer Celtic Wealth Management and advice firm Active Wealth (UK) did not attend an evidence session in front of MPs over the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS).
The invitation followed Active Wealth (UK) agreeing with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last month to stop its final salary transfer business after concerns had been raised over the suitability of its advice for British Steel members.
Following the no-show at the session last week, MPs on the Committee have released correspondence sent by the two firms, in which they defended themselves.
Clive Howells, managing director of Celtic Wealth Management, wrote given the ‘current malicious and sustained attack’ on the firm, he believes it is ‘unwise’ to give oral evidence to MPs.
Howells went on to tell MPs Celtic has worked for a number of years referring clients to Active Wealth as it was not regulated to provide advice.
Darren Reynolds, managing director of Active Wealth (UK), sent a similar response to MPs, claiming his firm has been the victim of a ‘barrage of innuendo, twisting and downright lies by Mr Rush and his friends’.
Reynolds said he was ‘shocked’ nothing has been done about Al Rush, managing director of advice firm Echelon Wealthcare (who has led a guidance operation to help the steelworkers).
Reynolds said his firm offers both a contingent and flat fee charging structure and has advised around 100 BSPS members.
‘In the case of British Steel members, initial meetings and subsequent meetings to present our findings were provided with no fee being agreed unless further work was required to facilitate a transfer. In total I have we have had meetings with well over 300 clients, of which approximately a third decided to transfer out,’ he said.
Field MP said he wanted to know why such a large proportion of Active Wealth clients have transferred out of the scheme.
'Transferring out of a gold plated final salary pension is generally a terrible idea, except in very particular circumstances. Firms that are routinely advising people to take this route should be shut out of taking this type of business,' he said.
'I am very interested to hear the "particular circumstances" that justify the advice Active Wealth gave, which they tell us resulted in around 100 members transferring out of the BSPS before they were stopped, and the total fees they have received for this wisdom.’