The FCA has commenced civil proceedings in the High Court against Paul Steel and Jacqueline Foster.
At a further hearing on 4 May 2021, Ms Foster applied to discharge the injunction freezing her assets and the FCA sought permission to amend its claim to allege that Ms Foster is knowingly concerned in the contraventions resulting in the removal of EMF’s assets leaving it unable to meet potential liabilities for unsuitable advice, and continue the injunction against her on that basis. On 14 May 2021 the Court dismissed Ms Foster’s application and ordered that the injunction should continue against her, limited to £3 million.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme has declared EMF (trading as Pension Matters) to be in default and is inviting claims from eligible claimants: https://www.fscs.org.uk/failed-firms/estate-matters-financial-ltd/
As part of those proceedings, an interim injunction has been secured which freezes the assets of Mr Steel and his partner, Ms Foster, up to the value of £7 million, pending a further hearing.
The FCA alleges that:
- Estate Matters Financial Limited (in liquidation) (EMF) has contravened various requirements under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 by providing unsuitable defined benefit pension transfer advice, leading consumers to exit defined benefit pension schemes when it was not in their best interests to do so;
- Mr Steel, who was EMF’s director and co-owner, was knowingly concerned in those contraventions.
It will also be alleged that Mr Steel breached FCA requirements by undertaking a course of conduct which resulted in the removal of EMF’s assets, leaving it unable to meet potential liabilities for unsuitable advice, whilst enabling Mr Steel to retain the significant profits that accrued from the provision of that advice, and from ongoing fees.
An injunction was obtained against Ms Foster on the basis that she may be holding or controlling assets owned by Mr Steel.
The FCA is asking the Court to make a restitution order requiring Mr Steel to compensate consumers who have suffered losses as a result of receiving unsuitable pension transfer advice. No trial date has been set.