Four banned over pension transfers

Four banned over pension transfers

Four company directors who were involved in the transfer of millions of pounds of pension money have been banned for a total of 34 years.

Karl Dunlop, Stuart Grehan and Ian Dunsford agreed to voluntary bans for their management roles within a group of companies connected with Transeuro Worldwide Holdings, which was involved in the transfer of pension funds.

Stephen Talbot, who was not formally a director of the now liquidated firm, also agreed to a ban.

The investigation, led by the Insolvency Service, found the directors had 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 self-invested personal pensions (Sipp) and occupational pension schemes, Henley Retirement Benefit Scheme and Capita Oak Pension Scheme, which were operated by trustees Omni Trustees and Imperial Trustee Services.

The investigators found that introducers from both Sycamore and Jackson Francis misled clients and offered them guaranteed returns designed to encourage them to transfer their existing pension funds.  

More than £39m was paid into Sipps, a further £10m into the Capita Oak Pension Scheme and more than £8m into the Henley Retirement Benefit Scheme.

The majority of members’ funds were invested in unregulated investments which did not produce the level of returns promised to members, the Insolvency Service said.

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.

Mr Greehan, director of Sycamore Crown, agreed to a 9-year voluntary ban as a result of making false and misleading statements to encourage investors to transfer their pension pots. 

Mr Dunlop, director of Imperial Trustee Services, and Mr 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 Mr Talbot accepted a nine-year disqualification undertaking for failing to explain what happened to millions pounds worth of assets.

Both Imperial Trustee Services and Omni Trustees have now wound up. 

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.

"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."