Un­claimed pay­outs ‘may hit Ex­che­quer’

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - CHARLES BROWN NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: yp.news­desk@jpi­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

FI­NANCE: The tax­man could miss out on a wind­fall of as much as £2bn due to 200,000 in­vestors fail­ing to make claims from a long-run­ning Swiss bank­ing scan­dal, say lawyers.

Courts ruled seven years ago that banks un­law­fully charged hid­den fees on savers and set a dead­line for repayments by the end of this year.

THE TAX­MAN could miss out on a wind­fall of as much as £2bn due to 200,000 in­vestors fail­ing to make claims from a long-run­ning Swiss bank­ing scan­dal, lawyers have warned.

Swiss courts ruled seven years ago that banks in the Euro­pean coun­try had been un­law­fully charg­ing hid­den fees on savers and or­dered them to re­turn the cash, in echoes of the UK’s PPI scan­dal.

But a dead­line has been set for the end of this year, and up to £4.68bn re­mains un­claimed by in­vestors in the UK, ac­cord­ing to spe­cial­ists at the lit­i­ga­tion fund­ing firm, Liti-Link.

Hubert Sch­war­zler, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Liti-Link, said: “New Year’s Eve could be a sorry start to 2020 for savers who have been swin­dled by greedy Swiss banks.

“We urge any­one who has in­vested in Swiss banks over the last decade to con­tact Liti-Link as soon as pos­si­ble. It might be the dif­fer­ence be­tween get­ting a sur­prise Christ­mas bonus, or start­ing the New Year out of pocket.”

He added that savers in Swiss banks from Italy and Ger­many have al­ready in­un­dated his com­pany, but in­vestors from the UK have been slower to act.

The av­er­age amount owed to Bri­tish in­vestors is thought to be around £23,400, and if all £4.68bn was re­turned, HM Rev­enue and Cus­toms (HMRC) would be in line for a tax wind­fall of £1.87bn.

For years, Swiss banks, in­clud­ing UBS and Credit Suisse, claimed un­der­hand com­mis­sion fees of up to two per cent on money in­vested by their clients, with­out their in­formed con­sent.

That was un­til Swiss courts said un­less fees were charged with ex­plicit au­tho­ri­sa­tion, bankers can­not retain them and must hand back the cash to savers who re­quest it, with a five per cent in­ter­est charge for late pay­ment.

But judges also im­posed a time limit for claims, and clients can only re­cover their money up to 10 years since the fees were charged.

The right of clients who were charged fees in 2009 to claim back their money will ex­pire in 2019 – so New Year’s Eve could be a sorry start to 2020 for savers left out of pocket.

The un­der­hand com­mis­sion fees, or “retro­ces­sions”, were a well-es­tab­lished and lu­cra­tive com­po­nent of Swiss in­vest­ment prac­tice for many years.

Mean­while, re­search pub­lished to­day has shown that fewer than one in four con­struc­tion work­ers reg­u­larly pay into a work­place pen­sion amid warn­ings they are be­ing “failed” by the Gov­ern­ment.

Unite said a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion (FOI) re­quest to the Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions showed that just 23 per cent of blue col­lar con­struc­tion work­ers are in a work­place pen­sion.

The union said the fig­ures showed a “ma­jor fail­ure” of the Gov­ern­ment’s auto-en­rol­ment pen­sion scheme, which was de­signed to en­sure all em­ploy­ees pay into a work­place pen­sion.

Unite’s As­sis­tant Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Gail Cart­mail added: “Un­til ram­pant ca­su­al­i­sa­tion and bo­gus self-em­ploy­ment are tack­led in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, work­ers are not go­ing to be el­i­gi­ble or pre­pared to regis­ter for a work­place pen­sion.”

The Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions claimed a record 671,000 el­i­gi­ble con­struc­tion work­ers are now sav­ing into work­place pen­sions, up from 232,000 five years ago.

A spokes­woman added: “Al­most four in five el­i­gi­ble pri­vate sec­tor con­struc­tion in­dus­try work­ers were sav­ing in work­place pen­sions in 2018.

“Since 2012, more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple have been au­to­mat­i­cally en­rolled into work­place pen­sions.”

It could be a sorry 2020 for savers swin­dled by greedy Swiss banks.

Hubert Sch­war­zler, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Liti-Link.

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