It is not the usual practice of the Pensions Ombudsman, (or that of the Financial Services Ombudsman) to disclose the identities of complainants or respondents and, from the perspective of respondents in particular, confidentiality is generally considered to be an advantage associated with a complaint being dealt with by an Ombudsman rather in the more public forum of the courts.
However, the Pensions Ombudsman has taken the unprecedented step of naming a company, Rodalko Limited, and its directors, Eamon O’Riordan and Tim O’Riordan, following his determination of a complaint by the family of a deceased construction worker alleging that the company had failed to comply with the statutory requirement to register their son in the Construction Workers’ Pension Scheme, as a result of which failure the death-in-service benefit of €63,500 payable under the scheme was not available. It transpired that the company had attempted to register the deceased worker in the scheme some sixteen weeks after his death.
Following the Pensions Ombudsman’s investigation and an oral hearing, the company was directed to pay the sum of €63,500 to the complainants. The company appealed the ruling to the High Court. A settlement was ultimately agreed in a lesser sum than that awarded by the Pensions Ombudsman and the appeal was struck out. However, the first settlement instalment cheque subsequently bounced and the Ombudsman arranged for the Garda Siochana to be notified. After some delay, the company ultimately paid the full sum of €63,500 to the complainants.
In a Digest of Cases dealt with by the Ombudsman in 2009 (published in September 2010 with the Pensions Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 2009), the Pensions Ombudsman indicated that he normally takes pains to ensure that the parties to complaints are not identified, noting that in addition to the importance of protecting the privacy of the individual, the identification of business entities could result in information on those business reaching people who should not have that information. However, the Pensions Ombudsman departed from his normal practice in this instance because “the case involved not just investigative difficulties for my Office but was then compounded by serious malpractice following the issue of my Final Determination”.