Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, and … Steve Webb?

John Griffin

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While Daniel Day-Lewis is being lauded for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, we should remember that there are other inspirational US presidents worthy of mention – although perhaps not in living memory (sorry Barack, early hopes have faded, if not disappeared).  One such president was Thomas Jefferson, an American ‘founding-father’, and third president. 

Jefferson, in commenting on how some of us take advantage of the misfortune of others, said: “Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor”.

Now, Pensions Minister Steve Webb is no Thomas Jefferson, but we must welcome his recent comments on predators and prey.

A hard-hitting government-backed campaign launched this week is warning people to steer clear of “pension predators”.  These predators are companies that promise people early access to their funds in return for a large chunk, sometimes up to half, of their money.  The aim of the campaign is to halt, or at least drastically reduce, the outpouring of hundreds of millions of pounds to so-called pension liberation companies.

According to Mr Webb, the fees being charged by these liberation companies are “…so astronomical they are nothing short of theft and, on top of that, people could be hit with an enormous tax bill”.

Unfortunately, those most likely to fall prey to these predators are those who are desperate for instant cash.  From Thursday 14 February, anyone moving their money into what looks like a suspect scheme will get a warning in their transfer pack, complete with scorpion-laden imagery, and the words “Don’t let your pension become prey”.

As another well-known president (George Washington) said: “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble”.