Three pension enrolment companies have been wound up by the High Court after the Insolvency Service found they had misled clients.
NAEH (formerly known as Ventica) and Wise Auto Enrolment acted as introducers to refer employers to a pensions administrator to help them set up schemes to meet auto-enrolment (AE) obligations, but an Insolvency Service probe found they had traded with a "lack of commercial probity".
The two firms made "misleading and unfounded statements" to employers and on their websites, and charged advance fees for services they then "completely failed to provide".
Further, the companies "operated with a lack of transparency", used incorrect company names on invoices, and controlling parties were unclear.
A further firm, National Auto Enrolment Helpline, was also wound up, although it had not been found to have conducted any malicious activities. The court, however, was persuaded it would have been used to continue the activities of NAEH and Wise.
The three firms were wound up by the High Court on 17 September following an investigation - assisted by The Pensions Regulator - was launched when The Insolvency Service received complaints from two company clients.
The Insolvency Service chief investigator Scott Crighton said the watchdog would always investigate companies where impropriety was suspected.
"The Insolvency Service will investigate and bring to a halt the activities of companies that fail to meet the required standards of commercial probity and transparency and that are found to be operating against the public interest," he said.
"The Official Receiver is now responsible for the affairs of the companies and we want to assure the public that the court's actions have put an immediate stop to their activities."
The investigation also uncovered "bogus certificates", claiming employers had exemptions from AE duties, had been issued. A TPR spokesperson reiterated warnings that such certificates would never be issued.
"No such documents are produced or accepted as evidence of workplace pension exemption," they said. "We will work to root out organisations that look to pretty on hard-working employers, abusing their trust and tricking them out of their money."
Earlier this week, The Insolvency Service announced, in a separate case, it had disqualified four trustee directors from running companies for a total of 34 years after they were found to have misled clients to encourage them to transfer their pension pots.
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