Pensions Regulator  

Regulator eyes power to check phone records

Regulator eyes power to check phone records

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has asked the government for privileges to screen phone records and emails of suspected scammers, in a bid to gain powers akin to police forces'.

A spokesperson at the watchdog said The Pensions Regulator had made a request for an amendment to the Investigatory Powers Act.

The amendment would allow the regulator to require phone providers to disclose billing data for individuals or organisations it suspects are involved in criminal activity.

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In addition, The Pensions Regulator would be able to apply to internet service providers for details of emails sent between parties.

The spokesman said: "However this would be limited to the fact that an email was sent and when this happened – the content of the message would not be disclosed to us."

The watchdog is hoping that Parliament will grant these powers in February 2019.

If the amendment becomes law, in each case in which The Pensions Regulator sought to use the power, it would first have to get the approval of the Home Office before it could require the data to be disclosed.

The spokesperson for the regulator said: "The new power – along with our use of production orders to get the financial records of suspects - would make it easier for us to build up a clear picture of exactly who is involved in a criminal conspiracy and the roles they are playing."

The Pensions Regulator has pledged to be "clearer, quicker and tougher" in its approach, by embedding a new regulatory culture and reinforcing its regulatory teams on the frontline.

In May Mark Boyle, chairman at the regulator, said: "In the coming year, you can expect to see us being more vocal about our expectations of those we regulate and intervening quickly and decisively through our wide-ranging regulatory activity and enforcement powers so that workplace pension schemes are run properly and people can save safely for retirement."

The watchdog, in partnership with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), launched a scam awareness campaign this summer, as it was reported victims lost an average of £91,000 each last year.

The Pensions Regulator leads Project Bloom - a wider multi-agency task force working to combat pension scams - with members including the FCA, Department for Work & Pensions, HM Treasury and the City of London Police.

Last year, the regulator began criminal investigations as part of a new approach to reports of pension scams.

The goal is to achieve "convictions against people who target members or schemes and we are beginning to see results of our work", The Pensions Regulator stated in its compliance and enforcement quarterly bulletin, published last week.

In the document, the watchdog argued it has also tested the use of its criminal investigation powers in further prosecutions under section 77 of the Pensions Act 2004 over the last 12 months, and it is "carrying out a number of investigations into allegations that trustees have made prohibited employer related investments and committed fraud and money laundering offences".