Pension victims wait on regulator

The Personal Investment Authority, the financial regulator tasked with ensuring a speedy review by its members into the pensions mis-selling scandal, has yet to contact almost 70,000 "orphan clients" for whom it is responsible.

The clients are former policyholders of independent financial advisers who have gone bust since 1988 or were refused admission into the regulator when it was formed two years later. If an IFA is no longer around, the review is dealt with by the pension unit of the PIA.

The regulator, which has twice fined financial advisers for failing to meet deadlines in the review process, has sent a questionnaire to about 8,000 orphan clients. It expects to send out a further 60,000 questionnaires before the end of the year.

It also emerged yesterday that the PIA board, whose members include both industry and consumer representatives, has rejected a "name and shame" policy suggested by the regulator's chief executive, Colette Bowe. It is believed the policy could have been challenged by many of the firms involved. Some would have disputed the figures and argued that any delays in resolving the problem were not their fault.

Chris Fry, sales and marketing director at Hogg Robinson, a company named as having among the most cases while offering redress to just one person, said: "Hogg Robinson has reviewed thousands of cases. The fact that only in one case has it needed to make a settlement reflects very creditably on the high quality of advice [originally] given."

The delays look set to weaken even further confidence in the PIA's ability to ensure swift compensation for victims.

Two years ago, a report by the Securities and Investments Board, the top City watchdog, suggested up to 1.5 million people may have ben mis- sold a pension. The PIA pledged to deal with urgent cases by last December. Documents obtained by the Independent show that, despite more than 360,000 cases being classed as urgent by the regulator, the 26 companies whose policyholders form the bulk of those affected have offered redress to just 2,500 former clients.

Among those facing delays are up to 800 police officers and scores of firefighters who were wrongly advised to leave their generous occupational schemes.

Even if they were to be offered immediate redress, police and firefighters are barred by law from rejoining theirschemes. The Home Office has drafted a special Bill which must be passed before they can do so.

Robert Wharton, a partner at Ringrose Wharton, the Bristol law firm acting for 500 victims of the mis-selling scandal, said the delays showed many policyholders could obtain a swifter deal if they went to court instead.