UK - Scheme trustees have been warned they will be held responsible for any information they give to members even if it comes from a third party.
Pensions ombudsman David Laverick awarded a scheme member compensation of more than £4500 after he was given incorrect details about his lump sum.
The complaint was brought by Mr A. Clark – a member of the Global Knowledge Network pension scheme – after he was told an error had been made in calculating his lump sum.
Clark was initially told he would receive a lump sum payment of £44,076.31. But shortly before he was due to retire, he was told this figure was wrong and he was only entitled to £19,024.89.
The scheme’s administrator, Scottish Equitable, accepted the blame for the mistake but the trustees were found guilty of maladministration.
Laverick said: “The trustees must accept responsibility for the information provided for members of their pension scheme, even when that information comes from a third party acting on their behalf.
“The provision of incorrect information amounts to maladministration on the part of the trustees.”
The trustees told Laverick they had queried the amount of the lump sum with Scottish Equitable but were assured it was correct. However, they were unable to produce any evidence of this query being raised.
Laverick added: “The trustees have pointed out they are not pensions experts and rely entirely on the information from Scottish Equitable. I am not impressed by that submission.”
Allen & Overy solicitor Dana Burstow said the determination should be a warning to any trustee relying on third-party advice.
“There are some trustees feeling more comfortable than they ought to,” she said.
The ombudsman ordered the trustees to pay £4526.37 to put Mr Clark “back in the position [he] would have been in if the correct information had been provided for”.
Clark was awarded a further £250 as compensation for his distress and inconvenience.
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