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FCA to scrutinise advisers and providers’ role in pension liberation

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The Financial Conduct Authority says it will examine the role advisers and providers play in pension liberation as it looks to crack down on unauthorised promotions of the schemes.

Speaking at a Thomson Reuters compliance and risk summit last week, FCA head of enforcement Tracey McDermott said the regulator is scrutinising pension liberation schemes with The Pensions Regulator and HM Revenue & Customs.

McDermott said: “One of the key things we are doing here, again, reflecting the new FCA approach, is looking at the whole value chain – not just those promoting unauthorised business but also at the roles of authorised advisers, pension companies and Sipp providers. 

“The involvement of authorised firms and individuals in a pensions transfer can cloak a scheme with an unwarranted air of legitimacy.

“We are therefore very concerned to ensure those advising or involved in this market really understand what they are getting into and are ensuring they give proper advice to their customers. We will be looking very carefully and very hard at their conduct.”

In May, City of London Police said it dismantled a suspected organised crime gang believed to be cold-calling and text messaging people across the UK with fraudulent pension liberation offers.

Pensions minister Steve Webb pledged to review rules around pension liberation schemes following the arrests.

Last week, providers urged the Government to take tough action against pension liberation schemes. Friends Life has seen refusals to “high-risk” schemes surge from just 56 in 2012 to 482 in the first five months of this year, while Aviva blocked 322 transfers to suspected liberation schemes between October 2012 and May this year, up from 75 a month between October and December. 

Jacksons Wealth Management managing director Pete Matthew says: “This is a good strategy from the regulator. Any reputable adviser would be nowhere near any kind of pension unlocking scheme.”

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