Pension bosses banned for 34 years over transfer scam

Four directors of a group of firms involved in the transfer of millions of pounds of pensions have been banned for a total of 34 years by the Insolvency Service.

The investigation centred on the conduct of the directors connected with Transeuro Worldwide Holdings, which helped fund two introducer firms Sycamore Crown and Jackson Francis.

The introducer firms cold-called members of the public, inviting them to transfer their pension pots into SIPPs and pension schemes operated by Omni and Imperial, who provided trustee and administrator services for two occupational pension schemes – Henley Retirement Benefit Scheme and Capita Oak Pension Scheme.

However, investigators found that the introducers misled clients about their expertise and experience, offering ‘guaranteed’ returns designed to encourage them to transfer their existing pension funds.

As a result, more than £39m was paid into SIPPs, over £10m into COPS and more than £8m to HRBS. Members’ funds were then largely invested in unregulated investments in storage units which ultimately did not yield the level of returns promised to members.

As a result, more than £39m was paid into Sipps, more than £10m into Capita Oak Pension Scheme and more than £8m to Henley Retirement Benefit Scheme.

Members’ funds were then largely invested in unregulated investments in storage units which ultimately did not yield the level of returns promised to members.

Sycamore Crown director Stuart Greehan agreed to a nine-year voluntary ban as a result of false and misleading statements made to encourage investors to transfer their pension pots.

Dunlop, director of Imperial Trustee Services, and Dunsford, director of Omni Trustees, agreed to voluntary bans of nine and seven years respectively after they were found to have failed to act in the best interests of pension members and subsequently failed to ensure investments were adequately diverse.

And Talbot accepted a nine-year disqualification undertaking for failing to explain what happened to millions pounds worth of assets.

Ken Beasley, official receiver for the Insolvency Service’s public interest unit, said: “You may have seen the current campaign by the Financial Conduct Authority, where they recommend that you reject unexpected offers, especially those originating from a cold call.

“You should check who you are dealing with, avoid being rushed or pressured into making decisions and seek out impartial advice before going ahead with any pension transfer.”

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said: “A ban from being involved in pension transfers is not a strong enough deterrent for other pension scammers. We need to see tougher penalties such as hefty monetary fines to make it clear that this behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Both Imperial Trustee Services director Karl Dunlop and Omni Trustees director Ian Dunsford agreed to voluntary bans for failing to act in the best interests of pension members and subsequently failing to ensure investments were adequately diverse.

The Serious Fraud Office had opened an investigation into the Capita Oak Pension and Henley Retirement Benefit Sipps, as well as other storage pod investment schemes, in May 2017.

It is also currently investigating Omni and Imperial.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pedro Gonçalves
Pedro Gonçalves is Financial Correspondent at International Investment.

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