Fighting scams – TPR bans trustees
Thursday 27 April 2017
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is warning pension savers, trustees and administrators of the danger of rogue individuals using scamming techniques, after taking action to prohibit the trustees of 5G Futures Pension scheme.
A notice published today by TPR (PDF, 230kb, 6 pages) confirms that John Garry Williams (also known as Garry John Williams) and Susan Lynn Huxley have been prohibited from being trustees of pension schemes with immediate effect on the grounds that neither are a fit or proper person to hold the position, citing a lack of integrity, competence and capability.
TPR previously appointed independent trustee PI Consulting (Trustee Services) Ltd to 5G Futures Pension scheme, to protect member assets and prevent future transfers into the scheme.
At the time of the appointment by TPR, over £16 million had been invested, the majority of which was in unregulated investments overseas, and the scheme’s methods bore the hallmarks of a scam. The overall value of the investments was significantly lower (at approximately £991,000) than their initial purchase price.
Nicola Parish, Executive Director of Frontline Regulation, said: “We will take tough action on rogue trustees and are calling 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.
“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.
TPR’s other concerns included:
- Potential scheme members were cold called and text messaged by introducers, paid on commission by 5G Futures Pension.
- Without their knowledge, member’s funds were invested in exotic sounding, unregulated investments overseas, such as tree plantations in Fiji, Brazilian teak plantation land and fund shares based in the Cayman Islands.
- The scheme appears to have been a vehicle for pension liberation and that the trustees were aware of this.
- In relation to the 5G Futures Pension scheme, TPR’s concerns included:
- breach of investment duties: investment of scheme assets in unregulated investments
- trustees submitted misleading statements to TPR
- trustees charged members unnecessary fees and acted in serious and persistent breach of trust and pensions law
- TPR had serious concerns of the scheme's governance which was deficient in many areas
- TPR found that some scheme members (below the age of 55) received cash advances or loans via introducers, and many members had not received the payments promised to them.
- In at least one case, Ms Huxley arranged for a scheme member to receive a loan directly from the scheme assets.
- The majority of investments made by the trustees were in unregulated investments, mostly overseas.
- On 5 July 2016 the Determination Notice and Order were issued by the Panel. Although this decision was again referred to the Upper Tribunal by the Trustees, this reference was subsequently withdrawn by the trustees with the Upper Tribunal’s permission.
- TPR is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of the regulator’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).
Matt Adams 01273 662086