British Steel workers who transferred their defined benefit (DB) pensions with Active Wealth UK have taken steps towards instigating legal proceedings against "all parties involved" in the process, Professional Adviser understands.
Solicitor firm Clarke Willmott has been instructed to act on behalf of a group of British Steel workers, who were advised by Active Wealth UK, in respect of Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) claims and any additional claims arising from the circumstances.
The solicitor instructing on behalf of the steelworkers Philippa Hann told Professional Adviser her firm was at "the investigatory stage" and would be looking into all parties that have formed part of the transfer process.
She said: "It is clear something has gone horribly wrong in the process and that, where entities have not behaved within the rules, then we will be looking at pursuing proceedings against them in order to recover some of the huge losses clients have suffered."
Clarke Willmott has had experience in running financial services-related group actions - for example against Equitable Life, UBS, Barclays, and in relation to the Cameron Farley Ponzi scheme, where the claimants had lost more than £45m.
The solicitor firm said it had offered a limited fee to go to the FSCS and, in respect of any claims outside of Active Wealth, would be offering the steelworkers a conditional fee agreement.
Alastair Rush, a financial adviser at Echelon Wealthcare, who has been instrumental in helping the steelworkers, having set up operation CHIVE - a pro bono guidance service for them - back in December, said the process had been a "long slog" but was not over yet.
"At least it's the beginning of the end," he said. "I had no idea where this would lead, five months ago when it all started, but here we are.
"I have received numerous threats of litigation as a result of my involvement and, although those particular issues remain unresolved and present an incredible personal burden that I never anticipated I'd ever have to face during my life, I remain unswerving in continuing to help these men and their families to the absolute maximum of my ability, and to discover just how this distribution process has evolved and who was involved.
"However painful it is to me, my troubles still pale into insignificance compared to the threat to retirements that these men and their families have had to endure."
Web of complexity
The steelworkers instructing Clarke Willmott were all advised by now-liquidated advice firm, Active Wealth UK. Active Wealth UK worked with unregulated introducer firm, Celtic Wealth Management, which has recently faced accusations of giving unregulated advice to some British Steel workers.
Last month, the steelworkers told Professional Adviser details of the various plights they were now facing. Some said they were told to fill in a risk questionnaire only at the end of the process to "keep the FCA happy", while others were told it was a "no-brainer" to leave their defined benefit pension scheme.
The steelworkers' money was placed into the Newscape Global Multi-Asset Conservation Fund, previously known as 5Alpha Conservative.
The fund carries a 5% exit fee if investors sell out in fewer than five years. Steelworkers who spoke to Professional Adviser said they were not made aware of this charge.
Discretionary fund manager Gallium Fund Solutions said the fund was selected by Active Wealth on behalf of its clients, and the trade orders then went through the DFM. Gallium has previously denied any wrongdoing or inappropriate professional links to either Active Wealth UK or Celtic Wealth Management.
Active Wealth has been contacted for comment.
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