The police and The Pensions Regulator have launched an investigation into a number of pension schemes suspected of being linked to cold-calling.
The regulator is concerned 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, ITS, to run the Alderley Wealth Management Pension Scheme over concerns about the management of more than £3m of funds.
TPR thinks the appointment of ITS was appropriate because the existing trustee – Confideo Pension Trustees – had breached its statutory, regulatory and common law investment duties.
Burgess is a director at Alderley Wealth Management and was a director at Alderley Asset Management until September 2011.
Alderley Asset Management went into administration in 2014 over a number of mis-selling claims. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme has paid out at least £491,000 in compensation over advice given by Alderley, according to Citywire reports.
In a statement Alderley Wealth Management said: “Alderley Wealth Management wishes to point out that on 6 September 2016 Alderley Wealth Management Pension Scheme was transferred to a new sponsoring employer, Building Technical Services, a north east based company and and at the date of transfer AWMPS had no members, no assets and no liabilities.
“Accordingly, any suggestion that Chris Burgess was somehow connected to any mismanagement of funds within the scheme is misleading.”
In the current case TPR says there is evidence that some members requested their funds to be invested in low-risk UK based investments, but funds were actually placed in high-risk and illiquid investments overseas instead.
Payments are suspected to have been made to introducers – some of whom TPR believes had used cold-calling to target pension holders.
TPR’s director of case management Mike Birch says: “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 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.
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 and has been released while the investigation continues.