Regulator Reveals Pension Liberation Secrets

The Pensions Regulator has confirmed 27 suspected pension liberation cases are under investigation for fraud.

Two of the cases are ready to go before the High Court.

The Pension Regulator (TPR) has also released details of a pension liberation case involving several million switching pension schemes.

A pensions firm and a retirement saver both contacted the regulator with concerns over a pension scheme called Pennines RBS.

The scheme took in 65 transfers totalling just under £4 million, with around 97% of the cash transferred out to another company called Hedge Capital Investments Ltd.

Misleading information

Another linked scheme accused of pension liberation is Mendip RBS, which TPR said provided scant documentation, but papers that were provided were identical to the Pennines RBS set up.

Mendips took in 77 transfers valued at £3.2 million with £2.9 million going out to another organisation that appears to be Hedge Capital Investments, but is referred to as H Capital I or Hedge Capital in the scheme paperwork.

Another scheme called Malvern RBS appears linked to both the Pennines and Mendip pension funds, but TPR has no evidence of any transfers into the scheme.

As a result of the TPR inquiry, independent trustees were appointed to run the three pension schemes with a view to recovering the money transferred out of the funds.

The review decided the pension scheme administrators provided misleading or inaccurate information to try to cover the real extent of their operations.

What is pension liberation?

“Current and new suspected pension liberation frauds are under investigation and we will carry on working with the pension industry to stop, deter or disrupt these operations,” said a TPR spokesman.

Pension liberation is when a financial advisor helps a retirement saver access their pension savings outside the usual rules.

The most common method is for savers under 55 to withdraw their funds. Pension rules do not allow anyone under 55 years old to access their pensions unless they have special circumstances – like a terminal illness.

The firms are accused of taking up to 33% of pension funds as fees – and leaving retirement savers facing fines of up to 55% of their liberated funds from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Another 41 pension liberation cases are also before the Financial Ombudsman for deliberation by the end of March.

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