Defined Benefit  

Pension bill amendment to give trustees power to halt transfers

“Such a measure could give TPR or other authorities a window to investigate, while giving trustees comfort that they would not face action from TPR or the possibility of an adverse determination from the Pensions Ombudsman,” the regulator stated.

TPR currently has discretion not to take enforcement action against late transfers, but this does not provide trustees with the same certainty, it added.

In August, the watchdog and the Financial Conduct Authority relaunched their scam awareness campaign, revealing that more than £30m has been lost to pension scams in the past three years alone.

Individual losses ranged from less than £1,000 to as much as £500,000, with the typical victim being a man in his fifties.

However, recent research from Quilter showed just 7 per cent of reported pension scams were passed on for police investigation last year.

In July, the WPC announced it would focus on scams in the first stage of its three-part inquiry into the impact of pension freedoms and the level of protection for pension savers.

Mr Timms has recently warned that changes in the law will be needed in order to tackle the growing pension fraud.

Project Bloom funding

One of the main initiatives to tackle pension scams is Project Bloom, which is chaired by TPR and has regulators, government agencies and other institutional bodies among its members.

However, the project is not established by statute. It functions on the basis of organisations working in partnership out of a shared interest in tackling pension scams and fraud, the regulator stated.

In its submission, the watchdog noted the initiative “could do even more to combat scammers if it was given financial backing through either statutory funding or from an industry levy”.

“With its own funding, Bloom could improve the tasking and co-ordination of educational, prevention and enforcement activities between regulators, industry, police and criminal justice agencies,” it added.

The regulator’s vision would be to establish a pension scams ‘hub’, staffed by “officials on attachment from different agencies working alongside law enforcement and covered by appropriate information-sharing arrangements”.

TPR, which is currently carrying out seven criminal investigations into scams and fraud that cover 52 schemes with indicative losses to savers’ pensions of around £55m, is going to introduce new training for trustees in this area.

It will be launching a scams module in its “trustee toolkit”, developed in collaboration with PSIG, later this year. The goal is to “encourage those working in the industry to continue to educate themselves on pension scams and evolving tactics”, and will also be recommended for administrators.

maria.espadinha@ft.com