Scottish Widows Complaint: PO-14071
Involving fraudulent evasion of pension encashment by SW, and its brazen cover up by TPO
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This page examines the Final Determination of 26 March 2019 by Anthony Arter. This document is the culmination of TPO's protection of Scottish Widows from criminal charges. It contains gross misstatements and misrepresentations, both over the facts of my case, and in connection with anti-money laundering regulations. There are also glaring internal inconsistencies, and it would not withstand close scrutiny even by somebody unfamiliar with my case and AML.
Considered by the judiciary in the light of the facts, this document would be highly incriminating for both TPO and Scottish Widows. But as I live outside the UK, I am denied due process in the Courts. It also appears that both the Metropolitan Police and the Department for Work & Pensions are in corrupt protection of TPO. And my report to Action Fraud of Scottish Widows' criminal misconduct met with the same fob-off response as many other fraud reports to this organisation, which appears to serve only the fraudsters.
This page assumes a working knowledge of my case, as given on the Key Facts page, which also gives an analysis of the Determination.
This page deals with the Final Determination of 26 March 2019 by Anthony Arter (the Pensions Ombudsman). This is the end result of my application of 24 September 2016. It partially upholds my case on a deceitful pretext, and awards me £1000 compensation. It follows a whitewash Opinion of 15 January 2019 by Jane Stephens (the Casework Manager) and a short Amended Opinion of 22 March 2019 by Tunde Adenubi (a new Adjudicator).
I responded to the above in an Opinion Rejection of 27 January 2019 and an Amended Opinion Rejection of 24 March 2019. One has 28 days to apply for permission to appeal the Determination and lodge any appeal; the deadline was thus 22 April 2019 (Bank Holiday Easter Monday!). But my Mexican residency denies me access to the High Court. However, this would not be a narrow appeal on my own behalf, but an attempt to bring to justice misconduct and widespread corruption affecting many other pension holders.
These documents in turn follow a
pragmatic solution introduced on 3 October 2017 and enforced on 31 October 2017, after a year of clearly deliberate delay and prevarication. The original Adjudicator (Barry Berkengoff) left TPO within a few weeks of this. There was a bizarre follow-up by Jane Stephens on 5 November 2018. The whitewash Opinion was issued only after I had rejected this illegal charade in five emails (none of which was responded to) and finally quoted the Pension Schemes Act.
It will be seen that the Determination and Opinion are mainly contrived at defending:
- SW's draconian documentation demands, made under a demonstrably-false pretence.
pragmatic solution, based on my supplying a substitute for my national ID card.
Also, there are many other aspects of misconduct by Scottish Widows that are concealed by omissions or false statements in the Opinion and Determination.
Identification and Verification Requirements
This is the criminal part of Scottish Widows' misconduct, due to the false pretence that they
are required under UK legislation. Scottish Widows refused to explain this, but TPO's position is that they are to comply with Anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.
identification and verification, although in some places the correct term
verification of identityis used. Identification is done to identify and record a new customer, requiring evidence of (at least) Name, Address, and Date of Birth. In my case, this was done on a face-to-face basis while I was living in the UK. Once a customer is identified, normally only the simpler verification of identity would be required. However, this is not necessary where there is an ongoing business relationship (as evidenced not only by AML documents, but by other large payments I have received from Lloyds Bank and Scottish Widows, for which only a signed letter was required).
There are two issues that TPO had to deal with:
- That no due diligence whatever is applicable in my case, as I have been identified on a face-to-face basis, and have an ongoing business relationship with Scottish Widows.
- That even if verification of identity were applicable, the requirements of Scottish Widows are so draconian that they could not possibly have been genuinely considered a reasonable implementation of AML requirements.
But the first point to make is that TPO never asked Scottish Widows to explain their disputed documentation requirements; instead they attempted to justify these themselves.
- The Determination demonstrates the lack of any such input from Scottish Widows in the section entitled
Scottish Widows' position(paragraphs [24.1] to ).
- Paragraph [24.4] is a preposterous attempt to explain away the awkward evidence that I had previously liquidated investment and mortgage plans to the same bank account in the same circumstances, with only a signed letter being required.
- The remaining statements in this section are also preposterous and directly contradict clearly-documented facts; these appear designed to sustain the
- I believe that all these statements were actually originated by Jane Stephens, who (along with Fiona Nicol) is the author of other blatant lies.
Another option open to TPO in the absence of satisfactory answers from Scottish Widows would be to ask HMRC for an evaluation "from the horse's mouth" (HMRC offers such a service to companies subject to AML regulations). But instead, TPO acted as Scottish Widows' advocates and self-appointed AML experts. The results do not bear scrutiny.
In order to justify Scottish Widows' demands, TPO had to negate my statement above (that no due diligence is required as I was identified in the UK on a face-to-face basis, and have an ongoing business relationship). The result is a quite absurd attempt based on the fact that I live in Mexico. In fact there were two attempts; that in the Opinion is clear nonsense, whilst Mr Arter sought to supplement this on the premise that my move to Mexico constituted a change of circumstances requiring due diligence to an existing customer.
This effort to imply that my residency makes me a special case is despite the evidence in the Final Response and elsewhere demonstrating that these demands are applied to all holders of (certain types of) Scottish Widows pension policy. Nowhere before the Opinion did either Scottish Widows or TPO give any indication that my Mexican residency required checks not applied to UK residents. And all Scottish Widows' forms requesting verification documents contain sections for UK residents as well as non-UK residents.
Paragraphs [28.1] to [28.4] comprise the TPO position on AML regulations, as inherited from the Opinion. Mr Arter heavily pruned and revised the inept statements in the Opinion, but the result is still irrelevant and/or nonsensical. Paragraph [28.1] contains an irrelevant history of AML regulations (excluding the applicable 2007 update). Paragraph [28.2] contains some excerpts from AML guidelines. Both of these are rehashed from standard documents and are largely irrelevant; perhaps intended to impress me. Paragraph [28.3] is a bald statement that Scottish Widows was entitled to impose the documentation requirements in the format that it did (this format being made to appear reasonable through the gross misrepresentation of Scottish Widows' requirements given in paragraph ).
Only in [28.4] is there any specific "justification" for Scottish Widows' demands, and it is absurd. To start with, there is a serious misquote from AML guidelines. It also ridiculously implies that my location in Mexico makes me a special case of a non face-to-face customer requiring enhanced due diligence, when pension encashment transactions would normally be conducted on a "customer not present" basis, regardless of where the customer lives.
Mr Arter must have realised the dubiousness of Ms Stephens' attempts, since he added paragraphs [35-39], which attack the problem on a different front. Being a solicitor, he was able to identify an apparent catch-all in AML regulations, suggesting that discretion was appropriate. This time, the premise was that my move to Mexico constituted a change of circumstances that made it appropriate to apply due diligence to an existing customer.
He quoted a specific paragraph in both 2007 and 2017 regulations that does indeed appear to be something of a catch-all. But the next paragraph details situations in which this might be appropriate. All pertain to a suspected change of identity, or to the business relationship, indicating that the party was effectively no longer that previously identified. There was no suggestion whatever that a change of location could be valid grounds for due diligence.
Whilst Mr Arter's effort was undoubtedly to a higher standard than the muddled attempt of Ms Stephens, there is absolutely no valid basis for his stated belief in paragraph  that Scottish Widows was justified in applying due diligence in my case.
Mr Arter also raised the issue of
a cross-border transfer of funds to another account . But there can be no valid grounds for suspicion over an HSBC (Mexico) account in my full name (Ian Clive McInnes), details of which Scottish Widows already held and for which I had supplied a bank statement, and to which I had made numerous large transfers from both Lloyds Bank accounts and Scottish Widows since 2006 (all requiring only signed letters). Indeed, this bank account by itself provides concrete proof of identity of the payee.
Paragraph  of the Determination grossly misstates the requirements as given in the email of 5 April 2016, in making them appear very simple. For example, that only one document was required to verify identity (in fact the email specified four). This is inherited verbatim from paragraph <8> of the Opinion, even though my Opinion Rejection made the errors very plain. This is just one gross misstatement against clear evidence (the email and attachment that TPO had printed, and to which I again referred in my Opinion Rejection).
There can be no doubt that these false statements were deliberate. They were required to support TPO's position that Scottish Widows' documentation requirements are consistent with AML requirements. At the same time, they imply that I am unreasonable in describing the requirements as
onerous. See the above documents to understand why I used this word.
Another important point is that nowhere does the Opinion or Determination mention my contention of a false pretence; it is this that makes Scottish Widows' conduct criminal. Paragraph  in the Determination contains an incomplete sentence from my email of 11 November 2018 (including a full stop to make it appear complete). This omits the key part about a false pretence, thus not only avoiding any suggestion that Scottish Widows' conduct is criminal, but also making it appear that I am unreasonable in describing it as such.
TPO's "Pragmatic Solution"
Since TPO (both Jane Stephens and Anthony Arter) clearly felt compelled to make a staunch defence of this against overwhelming evidence, it is as well to make some comments here.
- It is a self-evident charade to enable pension encashment while allowing Scottish Widows to escape justice (even though Scottish Widows had already made two such "offers").
- The TPO email of 31 October 2017 (with the initial email of 3 October and my first rejection of 4 October appended) is the basic evidence.
- Mr Arter brazenly refers to this in paragraph  as
an attempt by my office to achieve a mediated resolution. But although Mr Arter may have acquired the power of mediation after the consultations of December 2018, he certainly did not have it at this time.
- By itself, this serious breach of the Pension Schemes Act 1993/2017 (in which the functions of TO are limited to investigation and determination) is a clear case of the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.
- But this
pragmatic solutionwas hardly mediation; the above document shows that I was given the option of accepting it or withdrawing my case. Five emails I sent in its rejection (including three sent or copied to Mr Arter) remain unanswered.
- And all the circumstances demonstrate that the motivation was to protect Scottish Widows from criminal charges. Moreover it became clear that senior TPO personnel including Mr Arter were involved, making it a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
- Although TPO never gave any kind of explanation, it is based on the demonstrably-false premise that my national identity card was not acceptable verification of Name. I was thus required to supply a driving licence or passport as an alternative.
- Any such charade could not involve another document involving Address, as I had carefully explained why my best effort was a bank statement dated April 2007. Nor could it involve Date of Birth, as I had supplied the obligatory birth certificate. But TPO would have expected that I could supply another document as verification of Name.
- That it was verification of my Name that was deemed to be unacceptable was only spelled out in Ms Stephens' absurd email of 5 November 2018. This also offered a
letter of introductionas another possible solution in the absence of a passport.
- The only reason I can think of why TPO latched onto the false premise that my national ID card was invalid is a clear error that I called out in the form dated 14 April 2016.
- My correspondence with Scottish Widows makes absolutely clear that my documents were rejected as the only document I could supply them containing the address that they held was a 2007 bank statement (and they also required the documents to be posted).
- There is overwhelming evidence in numerous documents and the sequence of events that my national ID card was considered acceptable and accepted by Scottish Widows. Yet this is strenuously denied in the Opinion and Determination.
With the above in mind, the motivation behind the preposterous statements in paragraphs [24.1], [24.2], [24.3] and [24.5] is a little clearer. These are nearly all of what is stated to be Scottish Widows' position (but which I suspect were originated by TPO). They state that I had already supplied documents that verify my address; it was the national ID card that I sent as verification of Name that was unsatisfactory. However, [24.3] seems to contradict this in (absurdly) stating that bank statements would verify my address. This is nonsense as, even if I could supply a bank statement with the address held by Scottish Widows, it would be invalid for AML verification purposes as it is not my residential address.
Paragraph [24.5] claims that the offer by Scottish Widows to accept a scan of my national ID card alone as verification of identity should not have been made (even though it was made on two occasions by different employees).
Paragraph  refers to the letter and form of 14 April 2016 in rejection of my documents, omitting the key part of the letter that stated that my documents were rejected owing to the 2007 bank statement that I used to verify my address.
In paragraph , Mr Arter battles on, asserting that the conspicuously-erroneous form of 14 April 2016 is
correct, and that it is
unclear when a form listing national ID card as a valid form of name verification was provided to me. This was despite my having explained clearly in the Opinion Rejection that the most recent and error-free forms (the PDF and latest paper form of 1 June 2016) both list plain national identity card, and that the other paper forms contain obvious inconsistencies.
Mr Arter also adds some comments about address that are so confused they defy my analysis. For some reason (I suppose to support statements by Ms Stephens) he maintains the quite untenable and incongruous position that bank statements from HSBC would verify my address.
Part of the evidence that demonstrates Scottish Widows' knowledge of the illegitimacy of their documentation demands is the extent to which they were prepared to go to defuse my complaint; in particular in their offers to accept documents that did not comply with their requirements. This shows that they could hardly have been
required under UK legislation.
My complaint was partially upheld on the pretext that Scottish Widows had not done enough early on to help me in meeting their requirements. This disguises these "offers" to accept invalid documents, the first of which was made as soon as they realised I was about to make a complaint - see paragraph .
Paragraphs , and [20-21] are phrased such as to disguise the fact that these were two such offers (to accept the original documents that I emailed, and my ID card alone). There are many other instances of concealment, too numerous to list here. One should compare the chronology I give (with supporting documentation) with the account given by TPO.
My analysis shows that, although Mr Arter indicated that he had taken my Opinion Rejection of 27 January 2019 into account, he made no attempt to correct demonstrably-false statements made by Jane Stephens. As will be seen, the only significant changes he made to material in the Opinion were revisions to the sections dealing with AML.
Apart from this, there are serious internal inconsistencies, which would not withstand close scrutiny even by an uninformed viewer. Mr Arter is obviously hoping that nobody will give it much attention; or that they will assume that an august institution such as TPO must be right, and will refuse to believe that Scottish Widows could commit such abuses. But it is potentially a highly incriminating document.
Synopsis of Determination and Opinion
The Determination is mainly a superset of the Opinion, comprising an updated version of the document created by Ms Stephens, with further paragraphs from Mr Arter. The following table lists all important numbered paragraphs and possibly bullet points within. Except where noted, corresponding paragraphs in the two documents are (essentially) identical.
Throughout, paragraph numbers in the Determination are enclosed in square brackets , and those in the Opinion are in angled brackets <>. As elsewhere, underlined elements are links to further details.
|<5>||Complaint Summary and Background|
|<5> in the Opinion is a separate section  in the Determination.|
|[4-22]||Background information, including submissions from the parties|
|<4>, <6-23>||Complaint summary and background|
|||<8>||Gross misrepresentation of documentation requirements.|
|||<10>||Misleading reference to letter in rejection of my documents.|
|||<12>||Misleading reference to a further letter requiring documents.|
|||<17>||Disguised reference to first attempt to defuse my complaint.|
|||<19>||Misleading reference to email response to my complaint.|
|||<21>||Reference to offer to accept my national ID card as verification.|
|||<22>||Reference to the postal follow up to the above.|
|||<24>||Mr S' Position|
|[23.9]||<24.9>||This refers to Scottish Widows five attempts to telephone me.|
|[24-27]||<25-28>||Scottish Widows' Position|
|[24.1]||<25.1>||Preposterous claim that I had verified my address but not my name.|
|[24.2]||<25.2>||Preposterous claim that my national ID card would not verify my name.|
|[24.3]||<25.3>||False and futile claim that bank statements would verify my address.|
|[24.4]||<25.4>||Outrageous attempt to negate the fact that I had previously liquidated SW investment and mortgage plans with only a signed letter.|
|[24.5]||<25.5>||Statement that SW should not have offered to accept my ID card (twice).|
|||<28>||Gross misrepresentation through a selective quotation.|
|In this section, Mr Arter made significant revisions in the Determination to the equivalent paragraphs in the Opinion by Ms Stephens.|
|[28.1]||<31>||General discussion of AML regulation history, excluding 2007 Regulations (some of the more irrelevant details are pruned in the Determination).|
|[28.2]||<32-33>||General discussion of AML regulations (amalgamated in Determination).|
|[28.3]||<34>||Statement asserting that Scottish Widows was correct to have asked for the information in the format that it did (!) (revised in Determination).|
|[28.4]||<35>||Statement in support of SW's documentation demands, predicated on my Mexican residency (revised in the Determination).|
|[28.5]||<36-37>||Deals with SW's use of post; heavily abridged in the Determination.|
|[28.6]||<38>||Summary, again abridged in the Determination.|
|||States that I did not accept either the Opinion or the Amended Opinion.|
|||States that I provided further comments which he has considered.|
|||A summary showing that Mr Arter read my Opinion Rejection.|
|||States that many other issues I have raised have been dealt with (!)|
|||Includes strange statement that AML regulations are for my protection.|
|||Statement that I consider SW's requirements to be inappropriate.|
|||Non-specific reassertion that due diligence must be applied, and that discretion is available to the pension provider.|
|||Non-specific assertions, including another take on my Mexican residency.|
|[37-39]||Quotes and utilises an apparent catch-all AML regulation.|
|||Reasserts validity of requirements, and says he has seen no evidence to indicate that the requirements are a ruse to deter pension encashment.|
|||States that SW has tried to find other means of assisting me, and mentions the
attempt by my office to achieve a mediated resolution.
|||States that SW now appears willing to accept documents readily available to me as proof of address; it also mentions the
letter of introduction.
|||Follow on from the above.|
|||Comments on communication issues with SW.|
|||Continues to assert that my national ID card is not satisfactory verification of Name.|
|||False statements in connection with the Financial Ombudsman Service.|
|||False statements that SW did not previously offer an alternative approach.|
|This simply directs SW to pay £1000 within 21 days. Scottish Widows did not email me requesting bank details for 19 days (although I suppose they must be given some credit for using email, not post).|
Analysis by Paragraph
This deals with various paragraphs in the Determination and/or Opinion. Headings are usually a full quotation of the paragraph involved; where text has been removed, it is indicated by an ellipsis. Each section is headed by a paragraph reference followed by details in coloured boxes as follows:
Complete paragraph or ...excerpt... quoted from the Determination and/or Opinion.
Comments taken from my Opinion Rejection (which Mr Arter stated that he considered, and so should have been taken into account in the Determination).
Later comments in response to the Determination.
On 5 April 2016, following a telephone conversation with Mr S, Scottish Widows sent an email to Mr S setting out its specific requirements for verification of identity. Mr S says that during that conversation he confirmed that he no longer wished to encash policy 7410049. The email stated that, for non-UK residents, Scottish Widows required a certified copy of two of the following documents. One to verify identity and the other to confirm address:
This statement bears little relation to the facts. The email required the provision of four documents (regardless of residency): proof of name, proof of age, proof of address, and in addition a certified birth certificate. Details of allowed means of proving Name and Address were specified on the attached PDF form (these did vary according to residency/nationality). I could also not provide any separate proof of age, but as this was not referred to later, it must be presumed to be yet another error (deliberate or not).
Nowhere does it say that one document is to confirm address and the other to verify identity; the email indicates that all four documents are required to verify identity. Please view the email of 5 April 2016.
This email also states that 30 days are allowed to respond; yet the very next day, Scottish Widows sent two letters with quite different (and highly erroneous) forms, giving only 14 days (including post both ways).
At the end, it gives the impression of flexible options for sending documents, but it only became apparent in small print on the attached form that all documents must be certified; and these may only be sent by post. The very specific (and unreasonable) certification requirements also differed considerably between the email and the attached form. These and other issues caused considerable difficulties at the outset.
Mr Arter left this paragraph unchanged in the Determination, and thus ignored the crucial points with clear proofs I made above. But this vast misstatement was needed to sustain the position in [28.3] that SW's requirements conform to AML guidelines in requiring only a single document to verify identity. It also gives the impression that I am unreasonable in describing them as
Note also that national ID card is mentioned as valid verification of identity, despite Mr Arter's strenuous assertions in  and in the statement of [24.2] that this is not an acceptable form of verification!
It is possible that SW later moderated their requirements, having found them too onerous (for SW, that is, not their customers), and that the above reflects the current situation. However, given the correction above, my clear documentation, and its importance to the case, this can hardly be a genuine mistake.
On 14 April 2016 Scottish widows sent a letter to Mr S, in relation to Policy P56879Q...
This was the letter of 14 April 2016 referred to in [24.1] in rejection of my documents (this was a dreadful response to my email of 11 April, both in its medium, and its content). The first part was an unhelpful repetition of the standard letter they sent on five other occasions; in the second part, there was an indication that my documents were rejected as my bank statement was out of date, and that Scottish Widows required documents to be posted. I received this letter on 16 June 2016 - the same day that Scottish Widows sent a letter terminating my application.
On 26 May 2016, Scottish Widows sent another letter to Mr S, in relation to policy P56879Q...
Yes, this was just two days after they sent a similar letter and form, also for P56879Q (some were for N80803X). Non-response to these two letters and a further one of 1 June 2016  for policy N80803X was used to justify terminating my application in a letter of 16 June 2016 as
On 30 June 2016 Scottish Widows sent Mr S a letter about Policy P56879Q, saying that it could not accept photocopies or scanned documents and would require original certified copies of the verification documents to be sent by post.
The above statement hides the embarrassing fact that this is the first of Scottish Widows' two attempts to defuse my serious complaint. It requests me to send documents that they had previously rejected as invalid (on account of a 2007 bank statement as proof of address). See . Also sent by email on 1 July.
This skips over the cardinal point that Scottish Widows asked me to post documents that they had previously rejected (on valid grounds, according to their criteria); you did not explain how they could comply with government regulations afterwards but not before.
And I have already explained why I sent my documents by email; I was fully prepared (at that time) to send them by courier if I got the green light by way of a reply to my email (which would take SW a few seconds).
On 15 July 2016, Scottish Widows sent Mr S an email, in response to his email of 10 July 2016...
This email of 13 July (re-sent 15 July) offered three communication options - all of them telephone. This was despite having made my difficulties with this clear in the second paragraph of my email of 10 July 2016. They were unable to deal with my complaint by email on the grounds of security, despite having been able to email me two password-protected PDF documents with secure reply less than two weeks earlier.
Alternatively if the branch cannot facilitate this please send by courier the original or certified copies."
You can also send this to us by courier, please note that we will only accept the original or the original certified copies."
This is the second of SW's "offers" in dealing with my complaint, after I had told SW that they had no business to require proof of address in addition to proof of date of birth. My national ID card provides good proof of both name and DoB, so this document alone would satisfy AML verification requirements. As the email lacked credibility, I did not respond, and they followed up by post three weeks later.
This again conflicts with the untenable assertions in [24.2] and  that my national identity card is not an acceptable form of verification. In an apparent attempt to prop up this position, in [24.5] it was claimed that this offer, made on two separate occasions by two different employees, should not have been made.
The documents they have received to date only satisfy the criteria for verifying Mr S' address, not his name.
This statement is preposterous. It diametrically contradicts the facts, and in particular clear documented proof that it was my inability to satisfy their Address criteria that resulted in my documents being rejected, without any remedy being available on my part. And as you noted in <9>, I explained in my email of 11 April 2016 why it was not possible for me to completely satisfy their Address requirement. See also Difficulties in Verification of my Address. I give here a summary of the main relevant facts:
The motivation for the above ridiculous assertion is plainly obvious: it is a desperate attempt to negate the embarrassing fact that Scottish Widows' demands for verification of Address were in my case impossible to satisfy, and therefore patently invalid. The difficulties surrounding SW's requirements demonstrate that their intention was to make them as onerous as they could be, without being manifestly impossible to satisfy; my particular situation was clearly an oversight on their part.
In the email of 3 October 2017 from Barry Berkengoff, TPO pushed a blatantly illegal "pragmatic solution" requiring me to supply yet more verification documents, in place of investigation and determination. This charade continued on 31 October 2017 and 5 November 2018. To sustain the false pretence and thereby SW's position, SW/TPO had to continue to assert that the documentation I supplied was unacceptable. And this deficiency could not be proof of Address, as I have explained above. Nor could it be Date of Birth, as I had supplied the obligatory birth certificate. So they were left with Name...
His National ID card would not verify Mr S' name. As Mr S does not have a driving licence and he is not an EEA member, only a UK passport would suffice.
A patently ridiculous statement, which is also directly contradicted by Scottish Widows' documentation. As a government-issued document with photo ID, it has the highest standard of authenticity, fully equivalent to a passport in this respect, and is my only universally acceptable form of identification here in Mexico. If verification of identity were required under AML regulations, this would offer good proof of both Name and Date of Birth, and thus be the only document required (AML guidelines make clear that a single document of this nature will satisfy both verification criteria).
You may have been confused by a statement that my national ID card was disallowed as a form of Name verification in the paper forms that followed the PDF one. But it is clear that all but the last of the paper forms are older than the PDF one (probably from a stock of preprinted copies), and are otherwise replete with conspicuous errors. The latest paper form they sent (dated 1 June 2016) is very similar to the PDF, and relatively error free. And both the original PDF form and the latest paper form include national ID card as a valid means of verifying Name. Furthermore, the error of omission in the older paper forms (for example, this one of 26 May 2016) is clear, as the allowed Evidence of Address documents include National Identity Card with the proviso
Apart from this, for Scottish Widows to not allow a national ID card as a form of verification of name would be nonsensical, and clearly not conformant to AML guidelines. Also contradicting the above statement is that whilst the letter of 14 April 2016 rejecting my documents indicated that I did not have satisfactory proof of address and that the documents must be posted, there was no mention of any other issue. And on 1 August 2016, my ID card alone was allowed after I had challenged them over their requirements for proof of address - see [24.5].
But as I indicated above, it was necessary for me to lack satisfactory verification of Name to sustain the charade to protect Scottish Widows started by Mr Berkengoff (although no doubt under instructions).
The following is an excerpt from , presented here for convenience as it is referred to below:
Against all the evidence, Mr Arter continues to assert that my national identity card is not a valid form of Name verification.
I think it is quite clear from my above reply that both the original PDF form and the latest paper form (dated 1 June 2016) unconditionally allow national ID card as proof of Name. As I explained, these two forms are very similar, free of obvious errors, and clearly the most recent version. The remaining paper forms are quite different and full of obvious errors. These must be older, presumably from a stock of pre-printed copies (the PDF form should be more up-to-date, as it would be used to make the hard copies).
The form sent with the rejection letter of 14 April 2016 is patently NOT
Not stated in my Opinion Rejection is that page 4 of the confirmations of telephone interview for policies P56879Q and N80803X also specifies
And although it was found necessary to state that SW's offer to accept my national ID alone as verification should not have been made (see [24.5]), there is the further difficulty (for SW/TPO) that another SW employee sent a follow up three weeks later (see ). And in TPO's false report of SW's requirements (see ), the list of valid forms of verification of identity includes plain national identity card!
Bank statements from HSBC would verify Mr S's address. ...
As noted in [24.1], I was not able to supply a printed bank statement dated later than April 2007 with the address that Scottish Widows holds (which anyway is not valid for AML purposes - Scottish Widows does not even know my residential address). This remains the case, as I cannot supply another statement with the (correspondence, not residential) address held by Scottish Widows - see Difficulties in Verification of my Address. So bank statements did not and still cannot verify my address.
Anyway, this is inconsistent with [24.1], which states that they had already received valid documents for verifying my address (which clearly could not have been the old bank statement that they rejected).
In  Mr Arter continues to assert that bank statements might verify my address.
The reason Mr S was able to take monies was because, at that time, Anti Money Laundering exemptions applied to those policies. Those exemptions do not currently apply to these policies.
I have searched extensively for references to exemptions to Anti Money Laundering policies, and can find none. The 2007 regulations were applicable when I liquefied my investment and mortgage plans, and there are no references to exemptions in that, except where the transaction amount is below the threshold (my liquidation was for many times that amount). And there were no changes to these regulations until 2017.
AML regulations are not transaction-specific (this was stated by TPAS, and confirmed by the lack of any reference to transaction types in government documentation). The Final Response from Scottish Widows gave the game away somewhat in indicating that their documentation requirements were applied to "these types of pension policies" (I suspect those to which the Pension Freedom legislation of April 2015 applies). And there can be no rational basis for HMRC to grant exemptions to certain (unspecified) types of policies, and then remove them at some (unspecified) later date. It is convenient, of course, that these exemptions do not currently apply to these policies - otherwise the statement might be easy to disprove.
Apart from the Scottish Widows investment and mortgage plans, I also made a number of large transfers from LLoyds bank accounts in the UK to this same HSBC (Mexico) account from 2006 to 2013; in each case, only a signed letter was required. The last of these was made when I closed my two UK accounts (numbers 10869268 and 02208398) in a letter of 2 December 2013. At least some of these transfers (including early ones for construction of my house, and the last) were well above the threshold at which verification would be required - did AML exemptions apply here too? If so, what types of transaction were not exempted?
All things considered, I can give this very weak statement zero credibility. If there were any basis to your claim that exemptions applied, you would have provided specific information that could be checked, including the types of policies affected and the period of the exemption (just as you provided specific, although irrelevant, information in other areas). And if this statement was made by Scottish Widows, you should have asked them to substantiate it, rather than simply accepting it.
I contend that this statement is not just unsubstantiated, but an outrageous lie. It is another desperate attempt to negate evidence supporting my statements about the illegitimacy of Scottish Widows' documentation demands, which I expect to be able to conclusively disprove with further investigation. In the meantime, I challenge you to prove me wrong by providing proper verifiable information.
Mr Arter could have (and would have) dismissed my rejection above if the statement were true, as it is very strong evidence in contradiction of the legitimacy of SW's documentation requirements (and Mr Arter is clearly an expert on AML regulations!). However, he stated only:
But the unsatisfactory statement above said to be from Scottish Widows is part of the facts of this case, and it has not been addressed.
The offer for Mr S to email the documents should not have been made.
Indeed not, as it is yet more evidence of Scottish Widows' manipulations to avoid being brought to justice. But I do not yield to criminal misconduct, which had become clear by the time this "offer" was made.
This second offer was in response my interim complaint of 10 July 2016; this was based on an incomplete AML assessment, in which I asserted only that Scottish Widows had no business to require verification of address. It was to accept my national ID card alone as verification (this would satisfy AML regulations, were verification required), but with some stipulations, including that it were emailed by my bank, plus others that were clearly ad-hoc in nature - see . It was necessary to add these stipulations to avoid the charge that they should have accepted the original emailed documents.
This was Scottish Widows' second attempt to defuse a complaint that would have grave consequences for them if brought to justice. Their first attempt was on 1 July 2016, when they telephoned then emailed an offer to accept the documents as I emailed them, provided they were sent by post. The telephone calls they made at various hours after my case was assigned to the Adjudicator constitute their third attempt.
This appears to be another effort to deny the validity of my national ID card; as mentioned, this position is made even more difficult by the fact that another SW employee followed up this offer three weeks later.
This is only part of incontrovertible evidence showing that my national ID card was specified as a valid form of verification, and was allowed as such. But although TPO seems to have a desperate fixation on the
Mr S has declined to provide a letter of introduction and maintains that Scottish Widows is
This is a misleading incomplete sentence from my email of 11 November 2018, with the spurious full stop disguising the fact that a key point follows. My statement continues:
TPO's partial quotation gives the impression that I have been unreasonable in describing SW's conduct as criminal. It also omits my important point that Scottish Widows is guilty of a false pretence. This key point is not mentioned anywhere in the Opinion or Determination. Without the false pretence, their conduct would be gross maladministration, but presumably not criminal, and I would not describe it as such.
This essentially comprises two assertions, neither of which has any specific explanation (Ms Stephens claimed that just being required to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations was sufficient):
The following section contains the TPO explanation for the first assertion, and my response. This section deals only with the nature of the documentation requirements. One can hardly describe this adequately here. To see how absurd is the claim that SW was entitled to have asked me to provide the information
And the grossly erroneous and changing nature of the documentation not only demonstrates a negligent disregard for the customer, it is also strong evidence that it has nothing to do with AML, as it is quite inconceivable that documentation that should date back to 2007 would be in such disarray - see .
Note that  falsely indicates that only a single document was required for verification of identity, even though this directly contradicts the clearest evidence (including the requirements email and form). Given the care I have taken to describe the situation, and the importance of this information to the case, I can hardly believe that this was accidental. The effect is to lend credibility to TPO's assertions that SW's documentation requirements are reasonable. It also conveys the impression that I am unreasonable in describing them as
My unusual situation (Mexican residency) has led TPO to claim that this justifies SW's documentation demands; that
This appears to ignore the statements I made below, in which I explained that identification was carried out in the UK on a face-to-face basis (this is referred to as Standard evidence in the Appendix 5.1.1 of the Anti-money laundering guidance). Verification of identity follows as 5.1.2, and this must be what is referred to above as
TPO states that enhanced due diligence should be carried out
But the basic premise is that my Mexican residency makes me a special case as a non face-to-face customer requiring enhanced due diligence. Not only is this contradicted by section 7.11, but its folly is clear in that the customer's country of residence does not determine whether or not the transaction is carried out face-to-face. In fact few if any customers are likely to visit SW's premises to encash a pension, even if they are resident in the UK. Most, if not all such transactions, regardless of where the customer lives, are "customer not present". So there is no material difference for this purpose between my situation and a UK resident. There is no basis for the implication that living in Mexico makes me a special case.
The TPO assertion is also inconsistent with the facts of the case. There was no indication from either SW or TPO that my Mexican residency makes me a special case until the Opinion (which contains numerous other inept statements in connection with AML). SW's Final Response states that their documentation requirements are applied to all customers wishing to encash (certain types) of pension policies. The confirmations of telephone interview say that verification of identity was required as they were not able to confirm this
Your discussions of AML in <33-35> ignore the basic fact that customer due diligence involves two phases:
You imply that criteria for identification apply in addition to the simpler requirements of verification of identity. But is clear from both AML documents and common sense that identification is done only to establish and record an identity; subsequently, only verification of that identity would be required.
Scottish Widows has already established my identity; and this identification took place on a face-to-face basis while I was living in the UK. The comments in <35> are therefore incorrect, as I was physically present when the identification checks were carried out. And as I have had an ongoing business relationship with Scottish Widows since identification, no verification is required either.
It may suit you and Scottish Widows to use the terms Identification and Verification together, but this is only one of many errors in their documentation. As noted above, the requirements for Identification and Verification of Identity are different, yet most of their documentation does not distinguish the two. And it should be obvious that one does not do both at the same time. The confirmation of telephone interview of 5 April 2016 does correctly refer to the process as Verification of Identity (see page 4).
Mr S has also raised many other issues concerning his complaint and past correspondence with my office, however these have been dealt with separately, so I do not intend to address those matters here.
See the chronology of my dealings with TPO (which includes the complete correspondence) to see how I have been treated by TPO, and how my cautiously-expressed concerns have been "dealt with". It is no surprise that Mr Arter did not want to address these matters in the Determination.
... I should perhaps explain that the intention of all such legislation, among other things, is to place responsibility on providers and provide protection for customers, such as Mr S, from financial loss and illegal money laundering activity due to lax checks. ...
Contrary to Mr Arter's strange statement, AML regulations have nothing to do with protection of the consumer. They are to protect the UK financial system, and also to help in the fight against crime. There may be a secondary beneficial effect on finance companies, but any beneficial effect on consumers would be tertiary at most.
However, this feigning of consumer-friendliness is consistent with many other duplicitous statements from Mr Arter, who rules against the legal rights of the consumer while claiming it is for their own good.
As someone who holds shares in 22 pension providers and has a background as a solicitor acting for such companies, Mr Arter can hardly have any credibility as a defender of pension holders' rights.
Since Mr S had his initial face-to-face verification checks carried out, he has moved to Mexico and he is no longer a UK resident, so his circumstances have changed significantly. He is also seeking a cross-border transfer of funds to another account. For the reasons already set out by the Adjudicator, it is therefore right for Scottish Widows to carry out customer due diligence checks, notwithstanding that Mr S is an existing customer. I cannot comment on the previous instances where Mr S says that he has transferred funds, my review is limited to the facts of this particular case. What I can say is that Scottish Widows has not acted unreasonably in the requirements provided to Mr S.
Mr Arter (like Ms Stephens) seems to be rather confused about terms like "identification", "verification of identity", and "identity checks". He now inappropriately refers to verification checks.
Again, Mr Arter tries to capitalise on my Mexican residency; however my comments in <35> and the following section make clear that this is not relevant to AML circumstances. Neither should there be any grounds for suspicion over the HSBC bank account in my full name of Ian Clive McInnes, which Scottish Widows already held, from which I supplied SW with a bank statement, and to which numerous large transfers have been made from the UK by both Lloyds and Scottish Widows since 2006.
I also dealt with the reasons set out by the Adjudicator in justification of customer due diligence (or is it enhanced due diligence?) in <35>. These can have little credibility, and Mr Arter must be desperate to uphold them.
Again, Mr Arter asserts that Scottish Widows has not acted unreasonably in the
Nice try at a catch-all clause in AML regulations Mr Arter, but it doesn't quite work...
Regulation 27(9) of the 2017 Regulations states:
None of these conditions is remotely applicable to my case. They all relate to fundamental changes to the nature of the customer or the relationship. The fact that I now live in Mexico (which Mr Arter again attempts to use as justification in ) can hardly be relevant here, and there are no other changes.
Incidentally, discretion goes both ways; there is no good reason to deny payment when there is concrete proof of identity of the payee. In my case, the bank account in my full name alone provides this.
I appreciate that Mr S is finding it difficult to comply with the due diligence checks requested by Scottish Widows, but that does not mean that those requirements are too onerous or not compliant with legislation. Under the 2007 and 2017 Regulations, Scottish Widows has to satisfy money laundering requirements. This includes taking fresh steps to confirm Mr S' identity by asking for documentary evidence. I have seen no evidence to support Mr S' claim that this is simply a convenient excuse to prevent him from taking his benefits.
Mr Arter says that he has seen no evidence to support my claim that
Firstly, there is the matter of the requirements themselves and all the difficulties surrounding them. Although Ms Stephens and Mr Arter have done their best to hide the facts of these, careful scrutiny shows that they are so cumbersome in relation to AML guidelines (were due diligence required) that they could not possibly have been implemented in the genuine belief that they were legitimate.
Secondly, SW's evasive behaviour when confronted with my complaint demonstrates clearly that they knew their conduct was unlawful. And they would hardly make their two offers to accept (a) my invalid bank statement and (b) only one document instead of three, if all their demands really were
Thirdly, and perhaps even more telling, is the grossly erroneous and changing nature of the requirements documentation. As I mentioned, the original PDF form and the latest paper form (dated 1 June 2016) are very similar, free of obvious errors, and clearly the latest revision. The remaining five paper forms are full of conspicuous errors; I list them here in chronological order of the date they were sent:
The AML regulations applicable to my application of 5 April 2016 are those dated 2007 (the next update was in 2017). If the requirements were introduced in respect of this (or an earlier) implementation, the documentation would date from that time and thus be well-established and error-free at the time of my application. So it is absolutely inconceivable that the shambolic requirements documentation provided by Scottish Widows could have arisen from compliance with AML regulations.
This supports my contention that it was introduced shortly before my application of 5 April 2016, most likely to stem the increase of pension encashment that would inevitably follow the Pension Freedom legislation of the previous year. I think that this is what SW obliquely refers to as
Bearing in mind Mr S' particular circumstances, Scottish Widows has tried to find other means of assisting Mr S to comply with its requirements. An attempt by my office to achieve a mediated resolution has also been rebuffed by Mr S. Mr S says that he does not have the usual items the providers would typically request, for example passport; driving licence; and utility bills showing his home address etc. He insists that Scottish Widows is being unreasonable. I do not hold Scottish Widows responsible for Mr S' inability to provide these documents.
I am not sure what Mr Arter is referring to when he states that SW has tried to find other means of assisting me to comply with their requirements - did he mean their two attempts to defuse my complaint before I approached TPO (which the Opinion and Determination endeavour to conceal), or the
But the attempt by Mr Arter's office to achieve a mediated solution is the
SW also requires a birth certificate to be provided, when there are many other legitimate ways to verify date of birth. Thankfully I hold this document, but my subsequent experiences indicate that it would be very difficult for me to obtain a replacement suitable for verification purposes.
As I have made clear, SW does not hold my residential address here in Mexico, only one at which I can receive mail. So there is no way that I could provide proof of address that would be valid for AML verification purposes. It is not my fault that Scottish Widows did not take my situation into account. And by TPO's statement in [24.2], I am also allowed only driving licence and passport for Name verification - there should be no requirement to hold either of these documents (especially given the 14-day time limit).
In an attempt to move things forward, Scottish Widows now appears willing to accept documents readily available to Mr S as evidence of his address. Bank statements from HSBC, properly certified by the branch manager as original seen/ a true copy, might be sufficient in this respect. Also, Scottish Widows has suggested that Mr S should obtain a letter of introduction from the final financial exclusion list. Details of this has(sic) been provided to him. This can then be assessed by Scottish Widows and a decision taken regarding its suitability. To avoid any misunderstanding, Mr S should contact Scottish Widows directly to confirm exactly what is required in each case.
This is in clear contradiction of [24.1], which asserts that I had already supplied acceptable proof of address ( although maybe as a result of being confused by the incongruous [24.3]). Again, I have explained in detail that I cannot supply a bank statement with the address held by Scottish Widows; but even if I could, it would not be valid for AML verification purposes, as (since mail cannot be delivered to my home address) it would be for a mailing address.
It is also clear that several misunderstandings have occurred between both parties. One such example is regarding the requirement for a National Identity card. Mr S has provided a form showing that a National Identity card would be acceptable as evidence of name. It is unclear when that form was provided to him, but a letter to Mr s dated 14 April 2016 includes a correct form which shows that a National Identity card would only be suitable as evidence of address if, in the case of a country in the European Economic Area, it has not already been used as evidence of name. I recognise that this would have been confusing for Mr S and hope that he is now fully conversant with what is required and what is not acceptable. As always, it is best to obtain clarification.
The absurdity of Mr Arter's efforts to sustain his position that a national ID card is not acceptable has been made abundantly clear in [24.2], , and . He is clearly highly-motivated to support a
Mr S's complaint was initially directed towards the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS); however, I do not believe Mr S suffered any detriment as a result of this. FOS is also able to deal with some types of pension complaints. There is an overlap with certain pension complaints which is addressed in a joint Memorandum of Understanding. My office has authority to deal with such complaints and has discretion to try and to (sic) resolve them in a variety of ways including arbitration, hence its referral from FOS to my Office.
When I sent my TPO application, Scottish Widows appeared to have something to fear from TPO. Their documentation nowhere mentioned either TPAS or TPO; instead SW referred me prominently to the Financial Ombudsman (see the complaint information of 15 July 2016 and their Final Response). You will be aware that this organisation is not supposed to handle pension administration complaints; yet I could quickly find several purely pension administration complaints for Scottish Widows on their website (and none was upheld). But it seems that Scottish Widows now also has an "arrangement" with you at TPO.
The above point that Scottish Widows supplied invalid complaint information was omitted from your Opinion, but this is also clearly serious maladministration (if not a criminal offence), especially as it will mislead complainants into a resolution from an organisation that has no business to deliver it.
Despite the information received by TPO both in my case documentation and that above in the Opinion Rejection, Mr Arter falsely states that my application was forwarded by FOS to TPO. In fact, I was already aware of TPAS and TPO from a previous attempt to obtain my army preserved pension from Equiniti Paymaster (who also provided invalid complaint information), so was not fooled.
This is not a trivial point; this false information combined with the pension administration complaints on the FOS website shows that FOS has dealt with (and rejected) a number of SW complaints that it should have passed to TPO. This provides clear evidence of an improper relationship between SW and FOS. There is now even clearer evidence of such a relationship between SW and TPO.
... Also, this was exacerbated by Scottish Widows not appreciating the due diligence compliance difficulties much earlier and offering an alternative approach, which they have now done.
This ignores (conceals) the inconvenient fact that Scottish Widows did indeed offer an alternative approach (once they knew a complaint was brewing). I have made abundantly clear that SW offered me two means to encash my pension before I approached TPO:
So when TPO pushed their