Following an investigation by the GFSC of the fitness and propriety of Mr Keith Lawrence and Mr Roudon Zarb, directors and officers of the Hawk Group, Keith Lawrence and Roudon Zarb have agreed that:
- They will step down from their roles as directors and/or shareholders and/or from performing any other function, responsibility or requirement in relation to the Hawk Group;
- They will not re-apply to any authority for any authorisation in respect of any notifiable or licensable position in any financial services sector for a period of two years;
- They will surrender their individual and the Hawk Group licences issued by the GFSC, with the exception of Hawk Secretaries Limited, Solent Limited and Solent Nominees Limited, in respect of which Keith Lawrence and Roudon Zarb will be surrendering their directorships and shareholdings.
As part of the agreed outcome Keith Lawrence and Roudon Zarb are in the process of transferring the Hawk Group book of business to another licensed company at no cost to clients.
Keith Lawrence and Roudon Zarb are directors, officers and shareholders in a group of companies, including Gnat Holdings Limited, Hawk Management Services Limited, Hawk Secretaries Limited, Solent Limited and Solent Nominees Limited collectively referred to as the Hawk Group.
Mr Lawrence, Mr Zarb and the Hawk Group are licensed by the GFSC to provide financial services.
Following information provided to the GFSC the GFSC found that Gnat Holdings Limited (“GHL”) provided professional trustee services to a QROPS scheme and an occupational pension scheme without the appropriate regulatory permissions.
The GFSC took action to protect the interests of consumers by directing and overseeing the orderly transfer of these schemes to licensed trustees and by imposing a condition to stop the Hawk Group taking on new business. The new trustees undertook a full review of the schemes and have accounted for all client funds. The GFSC imposed a penalty fee on GHL for undertaking business without regulatory permission.
As a result of these events the GFSC undertook an investigation into the fitness and propriety of Mr Keith Lawrence and Mr Roudon Zarb.
The findings of the investigation are that:
- GHL undertook a change of business plan for the provision of professional trustee services to a QROPS scheme without the relevant regulatory permissions and in knowledge of the fact that the GFSC had declined to grant consent to GHL for undertaking this business.
- GHL subsequently undertook further trustee services to an occupational pension scheme without the consent of the GFSC and without bringing this to the attention of the GFSC.
- There were failures in GHL’s management of the QROPS scheme including deficiencies in anti-money laundering controls, failure to ensure compliance with the four eyes requirement and effecting transactions in relation to the QROPS client account without the requisite consent from the GFSC.
Mr Keith Lawrence and Mr Roudon Zarb accept all of the issues raised by the GFSC in relation to the manner in which they undertook their directorial duties and responsibilities and that their conduct fell short of meeting the requirements of the legislation in terms of fitness and propriety.
The agreed regulatory outcome reflects the serious consequences of a finding of a lack of fitness and propriety. Taking into account the unreserved apology given by Mr Lawrence and Mr Zarb, their admissions, their previous long business record in financial services and the consequences of action already taken against GHL by the GFSC, including the financial implications of the loss of the pensions business, the imposition of a penalty fee of £10,000 for undertaking business without regulatory permission and payment of a £10,000 contribution to the GFSC’s legal costs.
The GFSC is satisfied that the above outcome is proportionate and in the public interest.