The Insolvency Service has disqualified four directors of trustee firms from running companies for a total of 34 years following an investigation.
The probe found that the directors connected with Transeuro Worldwide Holdings helped fund two introducer firms, Sycamore Crown and Jackson Francis, which misled clients about their expertise and experience, promising guaranteed investment returns designed to encourage members to transfer their existing pension funds.
The Insolvency Service has now banned the four directors from running a company for their role in the businesses' mismanagement of almost £50m in members' assets.
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.
Imperial Trustee Services director Karl Dunlop and Omni Trustees director Ian Dunsford agreed to a nine-year and seven-year ban respectively for failing to act in the best interests of pension members and failing to ensure investments were adequately diverse.
Despite not formally being appointed a director, Transeuro Worldwide Holding's Stephen Talbot also accepted a nine-year disqualification undertaking for failing to explain what happened to the assets.
The two introducer firms cold-called members of the public, inviting them to transfer their pension pots into Self Invested Personal Pension plans (SIPPs) and pension schemes operated by Omni Trustees and Imperial Trustee Services, which provided trustee and administrator services to the Henley Retirement Benefit Scheme (HRBS) and Capita Oak Pension Scheme (COPS).
More than £39m was paid into SIPPs, over £10m into COPS and more than £8m to HRBS. Funds were mostly invested in unregulated investments in storage units, which did not yield the level of returns promised to members.
According to the Insolvency Service Public Interest Unit official receiver Ken Beasley, there has been an increase in cases where members of the public have been persuaded to transfer their pension pots into new schemes promising ‘higher returns'.
He said: "Suspicions should also be raised if you are promised high or guaranteed returns, unusual investments or complicated structures, high-pressure sales tactics, involvement of several parties, all taking a fee which significantly cuts into your pension pot, and long-term pension investments which could take years before you realise something is wrong."
Omni and Imperial are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
On 21 January 2017, The Pension Regulator appointed Dalriada Trustees as trustee of HRBS and COPS, and work is ongoing in relation to the status and value of members' pensions.
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