The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has decided to fine Toni Fox £681,536 and David Price £632,594 ($800,000, €740,000) for their roles in operating a “flawed pension advice process”.
The regulator said this risked people receiving unsuitable advice to transfer out of defined benefit pension schemes. The FCA has also decided to ban the two former directors of CFP Management Ltd (CFP) from carrying out any regulated activity.
Fox and Price have referred the decision notices to the Upper Tribunal where they will present their case. Any findings in the decision notices are therefore provisional and reflect the FCA’s position.
The Upper Tribunal will determine what, if any, is the appropriate action for the FCA to take. The Upper Tribunal’s decision will be made public on its website. Accordingly, the proposed action outlined in the decision notices will have no effect pending the determination of the case by the Tribunal.
Between 21 April 2015 and 31 October 2017, CFP, through its appointed representative, reportedly gave advice on 1,470 transfers worth more than £392m.
The FCA said Fox designed the pension transfer model and signed off on almost all of the advice. As directors of CFP, Fox and Price had “oversight of the operation of the pension transfer model”. Over 99% of the advice was to transfer and over 90% did not comply with FCA rules, the UK regulator said. Of those advised, 33 clients were members of the British Steel Pension Scheme.
Despite both having 30 years’ experience in the pensions industry, Fox and Price “provided advice without proper consideration of clients’ financial circumstances and objectives, attitude to risk and capacity for loss”, the FCA said.
“The flawed business model they designed and operated gave rise to a significant risk that many clients transferred out of their defined benefit pension when it was not suitable for them to do so.”
The UK watchdog added that CFP received a fee of between £1,500 and £20,000 from each client they advised to transfer and charged £500 when they recommended against transfer. Both Fox and Price “made substantial gains from this business”- Fox received £473,289 by way of salary, dividends and pension contributions from CFP and Price made £439,302.
Therese Chambers, joint executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “Ms Fox and Mr Price’s misconduct meant that customers did not receive the advice they needed when trying to secure comfort and peace of mind for their retirement.
“Despite having a wealth of experience in the industry, they both oversaw and designed a deeply flawed advice model that was little more than a machine to churn out recommendations to transfer, placing people’s hard earned retirement money at risk.”