FCA prohibits & fines Omar Hussein for pension switching advice failings
October 19, 2021
What has happened?
In October 2021, the FCA prohibited Omar Hussein, a former director and senior financial adviser at pension switching firm Consumer Wealth Ltd (CWL), from working in financial services. He was also fined £116,000 for providing reckless and unsuitable pension switching advice. The FCA found that he advised customers to switch their existing pensions when this was often unnecessary and not in their best interest.
What do you need to do?
Between 2015 and 2017, Omar Hussein and his firm advised 620 customers to switch their pensions into a self-invested personal pension containing significant investments in ‘Portfolio 6’, an investment offered by the discretionary fund management firm, Greyfriars Asset Management LLP.
His misconduct put at risk an estimated £13.5m of CWL’s customers’ retirement savings. P6 was a high-risk investment comprised of unregulated mini-bonds relating to overseas investments in car parks, renewable energy and holiday resorts. These investments were illiquid in nature and were highly likely to be unsuitable for the low net worth, financially inexperienced investors who were the firm’s target market. Several of the underlying mini-bond investments in P6 subsequently failed and P6 was closed to new investment in 2016. Greyfriars went into in administration in 2018.
Omar Hussein disregarded the clear statements and risk warnings about P6 contained in Greyfriars’ promotional material, claimed that customers investing in P6 were ‘experienced investors’ when there was no reasonable basis for doing so, and charged fees to customers for an ongoing advice service which the firm did not provide.
The failings were particularly serious because of the FCA’s findings that he acted recklessly and abused a position of trust when advising clients who were often financially inexperienced or vulnerable and had no or limited capacity for loss. They were also serious because, by his own admission, he was aware of the FCA’s pension alerts, published prior to CWL being established. These alerts reminded financial advisers that when advising customers to switch to a SIPP, they must assess the suitability of the underlying investments to be held in the SIPP and warned that non-mainstream investments were unlikely to be suitable options for the vast majority of retail customers.
CWL has ceased trading and is now in liquidation. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme is investigating claims made by CWL’s customers and, to date, has paid compensation to 437 of them.
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