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Investigation launched into poorly-run pension schemes suspected of links to cold-calling

Ref: PN18-12
Tuesday 20 February 2018

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and police have launched an investigation into a number of pension schemes suspected of being linked to cold-calling.

TPR is concerned that pension holders have been phoned and persuaded to transfer their funds into poorly-run schemes with the promise of higher returns and cash incentives upfront.

As part of the same investigation, TPR has also appointed an independent trustee to run the Alderley Wealth Management pension scheme over concerns about the management of more than £3 million of funds.

There is evidence that some members requested their funds to be invested in low-risk UK based investments. Instead funds were placed in high-risk and illiquid investments overseas. Payments are suspected to have been made to introducers – some of whom TPR believes had used cold-calling to target pension holders.

Mike Birch, TPR’s Director of Case Management, said: “Cold-calling pension holders isn’t illegal yet, but no reputable business does it.

“We would urge anyone to contact Action Fraud if they are phoned and offered the chance to transfer their pension.

“Our message is simple – a cold-call about your pension is an attempt to steal your savings.”

A joint operation between TPR and the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) involved search warrants being executed at four homes and businesses in Newcastle, Sunderland and West Bridgford, near Nottingham, on 11 January.

TPR teams also inspected one business in the North East in connection with the investigation, before serving a section 72 notice requiring information from that business under the Pensions Act.

One man and one woman have been interviewed by police under caution on suspicion of Fraud Act offences. A second man has been arrested and questioned by police on suspicion of fraud. He has been released while the investigation continues.

If you receive a cold-call about your pension, please report it to Action Fraud by phoning 0300 123 2040. If you are considering transferring your pension, first visit pensionwise.gov.uk.

Editor's notes

  1. The Determinations Panel – a TPR committee that operates separately from other parts of the organisation – made an order under section 7(3) of the Pensions Act 1995 to appoint ITS as a trustee to Alderley Wealth Management Pension Scheme. The Panel also made orders under sections 8 and 9 of the 1995 Act, including that ITS should exercise powers to the exclusion of the existing trustee.
  2. The Panel ruled that this was appropriate because the existing trustee – Confideo Pension Trustees Ltd – had breached its statutory, regulatory and common law investment duties.
  3. TPR is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of TPR’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).

Press contacts

James Glover 01273 662098

Matt Adams 01273 662086

pressoffice@tpr.gov.uk

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