Pensions Regulator  

Trustee used company pension as 'piggy bank'

Trustee used company pension as 'piggy bank'

Roger William Bessent, a Lancashire-based accountant who acted as a trustee and administrator to workplace pension schemes, admitted he transferred more than £280,000 of pension funds to support his own businesses and investments.

According to The Pensions Regulator, Bessent took the money from the Focusplay Retirement Benefit Scheme, and invested it in struggling and new businesses he part owned and which were run by himself, his family and a client.

The 66-year-old converted the transfers into loans and made official minutes and records of the pension scheme, falsely listing other trustees as being present at meetings when they were not.

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About £80,000 of the money taken has now been repaid, the regulator stated.

According to the regulator, Bessent used more than £120,000 to buy himself and his wife a house to rent out as a personal investment, which then had their daughter and her partner live in it.

Other funds from the scheme were used to pay tax bills for Bessent’s accountancy business and the business of a client, to subsidise the running costs of a children’s nursery, and as start-up investment capital in his son-in-law’s physiotherapy business.

TPR charged Bessent with fraud by abuse of position and making employer-related investments by way of prohibited loans – the first time the watchdog has prosecuted for either of these offences.

Bessent pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and two counts of making employer-related investments when he appeared at Preston Crown Court today (February 27).

TPR will ask for three other counts of employer-related investments to be left to lie on file, it stated.

The case was adjourned until March 29 when Bessent will be sentenced.

According to Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, Bessent "used the pension scheme as his personal piggy bank, transferring out hundreds of thousands of pounds for his own personal benefit and to keep his other businesses going".

She added: "As an accountant, Bessent was someone that people would turn to for advice and put their trust in. He abused that trust and used his position as trustee to defraud the scheme for his benefit and the benefit of his friends and family.

"Trustees play a vital role in protecting the benefits of members. We will not tolerate the abuse of such an important job."

Separate to TPR’s action, the Insolvency Service prosecuted Bessent for breaching a disqualification undertaking from 2017, which had banned him from being a company director.

He pleaded guilty to one count of acting as a director of a limited company while disqualified at Preston Crown Court, and will also be sentenced for the offence at the same court on March 29.

maria.espadinha@ft.com