The Serious Fraud Office (‘SFO’) has announced today that it launched an investigation into the Capita Oak Pension and Henley Retirement Benefit schemes as well as other storage pod investment schemes. The investigation also includes the Westminster Pension Scheme and Trafalgar Multi Asset Fund.
Over a thousand individual investors may have been affected by an alleged fraud involving over £120million.
Those who invested in these schemes may have done so through a Self-Invested Personal Pension, otherwise known as a SIPP.
How Storage Pod Schemes Work
Typically, investors were cold called by unregulated introducers and persuaded through the use of high pressure sales tactics to transfer their traditional private or occupational pension funds into a SIPP which would allow them to invest into storage pod schemes. The idea behind storage pod investments was that investors would purchase one or more “pods” within a larger self-storage facility. When the pods were rented out the investor would make a profit on their investment.. Often investors were paid cash incentives and promised guaranteed returns.
In some cases the investor is completely unaware of how poorly their investment is performing because the SIPP provider may send statements that show the original value of the investment instead of its current market value. Anyone who has invested in a SIPP of any kind should check that their pensions are safe.
The investigation is being assisted by Project Bloom, a government led task force that has been investigating pension fraud since 2015. The SFO hasn’t provided any further information but it is urging those who invested in these schemes to complete a questionnaire.
While not all SIPPs are bad, storage pod pension investments are not regulated and so are inherently riskier than traditional pensions. These are not the only types of SIPP that have been identified as having been mis-sold.