Berkeley fined pounds 70,000 over pensions mis-selling review

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The Independent Online
The Personal Investment Authority, the financial regulator, signalled yesterday that it had lost patience over the slow pace of its pensions mis-selling review by fining one of its members more than pounds 70,000 for a series of compliance failures.

Berkeley Independent Advisers was also ordered to pay pounds 15,000 in costs after admitting the offences. The fine against Berkeley, a network of independent financial advisers (IFAs), is the largest to be levied by the PIA against its members.

It signals a new-found toughness by the PIA against its members following criticisms by MPs and consumer groups over its alleged failures to ensure swift compensation to victims of the pension transfer scandal.

A PIA spokesman said the fine followed a visit to the firm, based in Coventry, by the regulator's pensions review team in May 1996. The team found that Berkeley had failed to issue firms in its network with adequate instructions on how to identify pension cases that needed to be reviewed. It also failed to have proper procedures in place to monitor its advisers' conduct of the pensions review.

Hazel Hodge, head of marketing at Berkeley, said: "We have held our hands up and immediately rectified those areas in which we were at fault."

When the PIA was formed in 1994, independent financial advisers feared they might not be equipped to deal with tougher compliance requirements.

Thousands rushed to join IFA networks which provide technical assistance and deal with compliance issues.