In Warwick, a trustee (Mrs Ranger) of the Rangers Pension Scheme (a small self-administered pension scheme) took part in a decision as to the distribution her estranged husband's death benefits. In a joint decision, the trustees (which included an independent trustee) divided the lump sum 70%:30% between the deceased's cohabitee (Mrs Warwick) and Mrs Ranger respectively, and also awarded a reduced dependant's pension to Mrs Warwick.
It was noted that Mrs Warwick refused to provide certain financial information requested by the trustees in order to consider the issue of dependency. Mrs Warwick complained to the Ombudsman, citing Mrs Ranger's direct conflict of interest.
The Ombudsman rejected the complaint, ostensibly on the grounds that the scheme rules allowed Mrs Ranger to exercise her discretion as trustee in respect of the benefits of another member, even though she had a direct interest in the outcome. However, in his deliberations, the Ombudsman looked beyond this enabling rule: he also scrutinised the decision-making process and was clearly influenced by the fact that the scheme had an independent pensioneer trustee.