Rogue pension advisers target sacked P&O Ferries staff

Former P&O Ferries staff who were sacked by the firm risk losing their pensions as well as their jobs, as authorities have warned former employees face being targeted by rogue advisers.

The City watchdog and the pensions regulator will send out warning letters to ex-P&O staff members who plan to move their retirement savings out of the company’s pension scheme. Thousands risk losing their life savings by transferring their cash in risky investments.

There are fears reports of a £150m black hole in P&O’s workers’ pension scheme could prompt a rush for the exit, with former employees transferring their money into overly risky or fraudulent investments.

The Financial Conduct Authority, the Pensions Regulator, and the Money and Pensions Service, a Government service, have raised the alarm, urging savers to “not make any quick decisions” about their pensions. 

P&O, which operates the busy passenger route between Dover and Calais sacked 800 seafarers last month to replace them with cheaper overseas agency staff. The group has since faced widespread criticism.

There are also concerns about a deficit in the company’s pension fund, to which the company has not made any voluntary contributions since 2006. Former employees who are worried about their nest eggs could opt to transfer the money out of the business but they could be vulnerable to scammers.

Billions of pounds have been lost to poor pension transfers since rule changes in 2015 made it easier and more lucrative for savers to forgo a gold-plated final salary pension in exchange for a cash lump sum.

Savers have repeatedly been given unsuitable advice or lured into overly risky investments with rogue advisers profiting from high charges and commission.

In one high-profile case, members of the British Steel pension scheme lost their life savings after being told to transfer their pensions by advisers. Almost 8,000 members opted to transfer their life savings on “bad advice”, according to the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority. 

Across all pension schemes, the number of savers making a claim against poor transfer advice doubled last year. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme, an industry-funded lifeboat fund, received 3,089 claims relating to pension transfers in 2021.

At the start of this year, pension companies were given powers to block customers from moving their money if they suspected savers were handing over their life savings to criminals. 

Anyone concerned about their pensions should seek impartial guidance from MoneyHelper, run by the Government, according to the joint letter, seen by Telegraph Money.

Any transfer requests are being “closely monitored” by both the pension scheme and the regulator, as it claims withdrawing money out is “unlikely to be in the best interests of most people”.

Nicola Parish, of the Pensions Regulator, said: “Pension savings take a lifetime to build up, but can be lost in a moment through a risky transfer to a bad investment or even worse, a pension scam.”

P&O Ferries declined to comment.

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