The Financial Conduct Authority has published a Decision Notice against Geoffrey Edward Armin of Retirement and Pension Planning Services Limited (In Liquidation) (RPPS). Mr Armin has referred his Decision Notice to the Upper Tribunal where he will present his case. Any findings in the Decision Notice are therefore provisional and reflect the FCA’s belief as to what occurred and how it considers his behaviour should be characterised. The Upper Tribunal will determine what, if any, is the appropriate action for the FCA to take, and will remit the matter to the FCA with such directions as the Upper Tribunal considers appropriate to give effect to its determination. The Upper Tribunal’s decision will be made public on its website. Accordingly, the proposed action outlined in the Decision Notice will have no effect pending the determination of the case by the Tribunal.
The FCA has decided to fine Mr. Armin £1,284,523 and ban him from performing any senior management function in relation to any regulated activities carried on by an authorised person, exempt person or exempt professional firm. The FCA has also decided to ban Mr. Armin from advising consumers on pension transfers and pension opt outs.
Mr. Armin advised 422 customers on the transfer of their defined benefit pensions into alternative pension arrangements, including 183 members of the British Steel Pensions Scheme – 174 of whom transferred out of the scheme following Mr. Armin’s recommendation. The FCA considers that Mr. Armin was seriously incompetent when advising on defined benefit pension transfers, breaching Statement of Principle 2: conducting business with due skill, care and diligence, and Statement of Principle 7: taking reasonable steps to ensure that RPPS complied with relevant regulatory requirements and standards.
In advising customers, Mr. Armin failed to obtain the necessary information required to assess the suitability of a pension transfer for a customer, and also disregarded information including customers’ financial situation, income needs throughout retirement, and how their existing pension benefits compared to the proposed alternative.
In some cases, Mr. Armin only informed customers of the consequences of their decision to forego the valuable guaranteed benefits offered by their defined benefit pension after they had already transferred out of the scheme.
The total value of transfers on which Mr. Armin advised was £125m, £74m of which related to the British Steel Pension Scheme. The average transfer value for customers advised by Mr. Armin was approximately £298,000. RPPS received £2.2m in fees for all defined benefit pension transfer advice, 55% (approximately £1.2m) of which was retained by RPPS and Mr. Armin. Mr. Armin received a significant financial benefit from the advice he provided on defined benefit pension transfers. As a result, the fine the FCA has decided to impose on Mr. Armin is seeking to remove the benefits he received.