Regulator bans two trustees for dodgy investment practices

Regulator bans two trustees for dodgy investment practices

The Pensions Regulator has banned the trustees of 5G Futures Pension scheme after they invested millions of pounds of members money in overseas investments that "bore the hallmarks of a scam". 

Members of the scheme lost more than 90 per cent of their initial investments as a result of the trustees' investment decisions.

The regulator named the trustees in question as John Garry Williams (also known as Garry John Williams) and Susan Lynn Huxley.

The pension scheme was a defined contribution trust-based workplace scheme attached to company 5G Futures - a dormant company set up by Williams and Huxley, who were directors of the company as well as being scheme trustees.

Despite having no active business attached to it, the scheme had 529 members, brought on board by introducers via cold calling or text messages. The regulator said members were offered financial incentives to transfer in. 

The members' money was then invested in unregulated investments, including leases in a plantation in Ghana, land in Brazil, tree plantations in Fiji and biofuel bonds in Singapore.

The regulator said that, out of a total of £16m invested, the value of the fund was reduced to approximately £991,000.

Nicola Parish, TPR's executive director of frontline regulation, warned the regulator would continue to take "tough action on rogue trustees", and called on "all pension savers, trustees and administrators to be alert to the techniques they use".

"Beware of the dangers of transferring out of reputable pension schemes to access unrealistically high returns often associated with exotic sounding investment opportunities. If an offer seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is," she said.

"Our concerns in this case led to us appointing an independent trustee and we are confident that our actions have saved hundreds of members from entering the scheme."

TPR found that the trustees of 5G Futures Pension scheme showed "serious disregard" of some "obvious risks" to members from the scheme’s investments.

Last year, the government announced it would introduce a ban on all cold calling related to pensions, after a campaign led by financial adviser Darren Cooke attracted significant support.

However, earlier this week the government revealed the measure would be excluded from the slimmed-down Finance Bill that passed into law this week.

A number of other measures were excluded from the bill, including the cut to the money purchase annual allowance, the advice allowance and the cut to the dividend allowance.