Regulation  

Pension fund missing as investment vehicle wound up

Pension fund missing as investment vehicle wound up

A company lost its pension fund after it was targeted by an investment vehicle which "cynically" stripped the assets of small family-owned businesses in the UK. 

The unnamed company became the target of Charles James Associates Group, which was wound up at the High Court last week (May 4) after the judge heard how the company had "deceptively" purchased small businesses before forcing them into insolvency. 

According to an investigation by the Insolvency Service, Charles James Associates was used as an investment vehicle which bought companies which were "sustainable and solvent" before stripping their assets and "plundering" funds. 

This caused job losses at the acquired companies and in the one instance saw Charles James Associates secure pension contributions from employees - but it failed to pay the money collected into the pension fund, which still remains unaccounted for.

Irshard Mohammed, senior investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: "Charles James Associates Group cynically purchased companies through deception before stripping them of their assets.

"Not only did this force previously viable companies to go into insolvency but it also meant employees lost jobs and creditors were out of pocket.

"The courts thankfully recognised the severity of Charles James Associates Group’s misconduct and removed the company from the corporate arena."

The Insolvency Service warned the asset-stripping conducted by Charles James Associates, which was registered to an address without the permission of the property's occupants, had caused "serious losses for creditors and employees lost jobs".

The High Court heard how the company did not use any of its own funds to acquire other businesses but instead used third parties to negotiate for the acquired firms to use their own money to complete the sale, with any remaining balances to be paid on a deferred payment basis.

Charles James Associates would then buy the business from the third parties for a "nominal sum" before stripping the assets. 

rachel.mortimer@ft.com

What do you think about the issues raised by this story? Email us on fa.letters@ft.com to let us know.