Northern Ireland

Accountant fined £75K over pension advice

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Image caption David Watters was the compliance oversight official at FGS McClure Watters and Lanyon Astor Buller

A prominent Belfast accountant has been fined £75,000 after two firms he worked for gave inadequate pension advice to customers.

David Watters worked at FGS McClure Watters and Lanyon Astor Buller as a compliance oversight official when they were advising on pension transfers.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found it may have been unnecessary for some customers to leave their defined benefit schemes and move into defined contribution schemes, as advised.

It also found that Mr Watters had not properly managed conflicts of interest at the firms.

'Failure'

During the period from February 2006 to April 2009, the firms Mr Watters worked for provided advice to over 700 members of defined benefit schemes about the merits of transferring out.

The FCA found that Mr Watters had left his staff to design their own process around advising customers about transferring from defined benefit to defined contribution schemes.

This was despite one adviser in particular being directly financially incentivised to encourage customers to transfer.

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement at the FCA, said: "It was Mr Watters' responsibility to take reasonable steps to put in place a compliant advice process.

"His failure to do this placed customers at risk of needlessly losing valuable benefits for their retirement."

Lanyon Aston Bulller has agreed to contact affected customers and where loss has been caused, it will pay appropriate redress.

Mr Watters was at one time the managing partner of his own firm which has since been sold.

In 2015 it emerged that Mr Watters claimed that he had come up with the idea that Nama's Northern Ireland loan book should be sold as single lot and was laying claim to fees related to the eventual deal.

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