The Bank of England Governor, Andrew Bailey, has come under fire for falling asleep during a meeting about a huge pension mis-selling scandal while working for the City regulator.
Mr Bailey’s “head dropped and his eyes closed” during a hearing about the British Steel pension scheme scandal that cost some steelworkers up to £ 489,000, according to those who attended the 2019 meeting with the ex-Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) boss.
Al Rush, an adviser who represents ex-British Steel pension scheme members, told the Financial Times: “Bailey just kept falling asleep. We were trying to put across a serious point.”
Philippa Hann, a lawyer at Clarke Willmott who also attended the meeting, told the newspaper that “we felt very strongly that the FCA wasn’t doing enough for the steelworkers. We were pleased to be speaking to Bailey but there were a number of times when his head dropped and he had his eyes closed and he appeared to be sleeping. It was very strange “.
Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, has accused the FCA of being “asleep at the wheel” when handling this case.
The 2017 scandal saw thousands of workers fall victim to firms preying on their generous final salary pensions, encouraging them to transfer to new pots and levying large fees in the process. Almost 8,000 members opted to transfer their life savings on “bad advice”, the FCA said.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said in an official report on Friday that the regulated financial advice market failed to protect them, with 47pc of advice “deemed to be unsuitable”.
It said that the total loss for upheld claims is £ 55.3m but the total compensation awarded so far is £ 37.3m, resulting in a shortfall of £ 18m.
More than 100,000 members of the British Steel pension scheme had to choose what happened to their savings after sponsor company Tata Steel decided to sell the British steel business in 2016 and offload its pension plan as part of a deal agreed with the regulator. The NAO said on Friday that members had “limited time to make their decisions”.
The FCA declined to comment on the allegations surrounding Mr Bailey.
A Bank spokesman said: “Andrew devoted a huge amount of time to BSPS, ordering a major investigation into the matter by the FCA. He wholly and categorically rejects any suggestion that he did not take seriously the issues raised by those affected”.