Four company directors have been banned for a combined 34 years after receiving £57m of members' pensions pots through targeted cold calling.
The directors, all connected with Transeuro Worldwide, funded two introducer firms; Sycamore Crown Ltd and Jackson Francis Ltd, who persuaded members of the public to transfer their pension pot into self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs) and pension schemes operated by Omni Trustees and Imperial Trustee Services.
The schemes, Henley Retirement Benefit Scheme and Capita Oak Pension Scheme received £8m and £10m, respectively, while a further £39m was transferred into SIPPs.
The investigation, led by the Insolvency Service, found that the two introducers misled clients about their experience and offered them “guaranteed returns” on their pension investment.
Sycamore Crown director, Stuart Greehan, accepted a nine year voluntary ban for false and misleading statements, while Imperial Trustee Services director Karl Dunlop (nine years) and Omni Trustees director Ian Dunsford (seven years) both received bans for failing to act in the best interest of members.
Furthermore, Stephen Talbot, despite not formerly being appointed a director of Transeuro Worldwide received a nine year ban for failing to explain what happened to millions pounds worth of assets.
The Insolvency Service official receiver in the public interest unit, Ken Beasley, said: “You may have seen the current campaign by the Financial Conduct Authority, where they recommend that you reject unexpected offers, especially those originating from a cold call.
“You should check who you are dealing with, avoid being rushed or pressured into making decisions and seek out impartial advice before going ahead with any pension transfer.”
Beasley added that he has seen an increase in these sorts of cases and suspicions should be raised if you are promised high or guaranteed returns or unusual investments.
“Involvement of several parties, all taking a fee which significantly cuts into your pension pot, and long-term pension investments which could take years before you realise something is wrong.”
Omni Trustees and Independent Service Trustees are now the subject of a Serious Fraud Office investigation.
Aegon head of pensions, Kate Smith, said: "A ban from being involved in pension transfers is not a strong enough deterrent for other pension scammers. We need to see tougher penalties such as hefty monetary fines to make it clear that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
"A cold-calling ban is in the pipeline but for every week it’s delayed, more people’s pensions are put at risk from well organised groups intent on separating people from their lifetime savings."
Research by Aegon published today, 26 September, found that almost two thirds (62 per cent) of financial advisers want greater priority given to implementing a ‘cold calling’ ban on pensions.
The government was meant to launch a cold calling ban by the end of June 2018, but failed to meet its deadline. It has since launched a second consultation on the ban, which will ran until 17 August 2018, with a view to lay regulations before parliament in the autumn.