UK pensions watchdog and police team up in cold-calling case

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and the police are jointly investigating a number of pension schemes suspected of being linked to cold calling, resulting in a trustee being appointed to a wealth management firm.

Asset manager targeted in criminal investigation

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TPR said it 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.

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.”

North-east England action

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.

Trustee appointed for wealth manager

As part of the same investigation, TPR also appointed an independent trustee to run the Alderley Wealth Management pension scheme over concerns about the management of more than £3m ($4.2m, €3.4m) of funds.

Companies House states that the firm is involved in life insurance and pension funding.

TPR’s Determinations Panel ruled that it was appropriate to appoint trustee ITS to the Alderley pension scheme because the existing trustee – Confideo Pension Trustees – “had breached its statutory, regulatory and common law investment duties”.

According to its website, Alderley’s directors have “accumulated over 30 years’ experience from working in HMRC, banking, accountancy and authorised & regulated financial advice”.

The site states that the directors’ knowledge of specialists is not just restricted to the UK.

“They have very strong connections in Switzerland, Ireland, Dubai, Gibraltar – and can act as trustees if required.”

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