Two men who put pension savers’ money into eucalyptus farms, hotel rooms on an African island and car park bays have been banned from acting as pension scheme trustees.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has banned Stephen Alexander Ward (PDF, 417kb, 24 pages) and Anthony Salih (PDF, 425kb, 26 pages) after they allowed millions of pounds of transferred funds held under their trust to be put into exotic, high risk and suspected scam investments.
TPR’s Determinations Panel found that both men lacked the competence and capability to be trustees, and described Mr Ward as reckless and lacking in integrity. Both men were warned that they could be jailed if they act as a pension scheme trustee in the future.
The men were directors of Dorrixo Alliance (UK) Limited, which acted as trustee for the London Quantum pension scheme.
Between April 2014 and June 2015 hundreds of people were approached by introducers being paid commission to try to persuade pension holders to transfer their funds to the London Quantum scheme for investment in exotic sounding propositions.
More than 90 people transferred their pensions, worth in excess of £6 million, to the scheme. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were then paid out to Dorrixo, to introducers and to a business providing administration and marketing services.
But while many of the members believed their funds were being put into low or medium risk investments, in truth the funds were going into high-risk, high-cost illiquid investments that paid large commissions to introducers.
Concerns over the security and quality of the investments and over the governance and administration of the London Quantum scheme led TPR to appoint Dalriada Trustees Limited as an independent trustee to the exclusion of Dorrixo.
The Determinations Panel found that Mr Ward’s behaviour was reckless and demonstrated a lack of integrity, as he had failed to investigate an inappropriate employer-related investment that should have been obvious to him as a professional trustee. It also found that he had a serious lack of competence and capability to be a trustee.
Mr Ward did not appeal his prohibition.
The panel also found that Mr Salih lacked the competence and capability to be a trustee.
Mr Salih launched an appeal in February to the Upper Tribunal against his prohibition but abandoned this seven months later, ahead of a hearing. TPR had made clear throughout the process that it would defend its case against Mr Salih robustly.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s Executive Director of Frontline Regulation, said:
“Stephen Ward and Anthony Salih put millions of pounds of other people’s money at risk and have neither the knowledge nor the skills needed to run a pension scheme.
“Trustees play a vital role as the first line of defence for pension schemes but these two men allowed huge sums to be invested into high risk, exotic investments that bear all the hallmarks of being scams.
“As this case shows, we will take action to replace trustees if we believe they are putting scheme funds at risk and will ban those who are not fit to perform such an important task – pursuing cases right the way through the courts if that is what it takes to get the right result.”
TPR and the Financial Conduct Authority joined forces in August to launch a new national awareness campaign about pension scams.
For tips on how to identify a pension scam and advice on what to do if you fear you have fallen victim to a scam, visit fca.org.uk/scamsmart.
- The Determinations Panel is a committee of TPR that operates separately from other parts of the organisation and in its decision making is independent of the case teams and the investigation process. It has a separately appointed membership and separate legal support. The panel considers all the evidence before it and provides each party with reasonable opportunity to present its case.
- The orders made by the panel under section 3 of the Pensions Act 1995 prohibit Stephen Alexander Ward (date of birth 11 July 1955) and Anthony Mustafa Salih (15 January 1985) from being trustees of trust schemes in general. It has the effect of removing the individuals from all or any schemes of which they are trustees. The men’s names have been added to TPR’s register of prohibited trustees.
- By section 6 of the Pensions Act 1995, any person who purports to act as a trustee of a trust scheme whilst prohibited under section 3 is guilty of an offence and liable (a) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, and (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment or both.
- Section 40 of the Pensions Act 1995 limits the proportion of a pension scheme’s funds that can be placed in employer-related investments to 5% of the total. At one stage, almost 100% of the London Quantum funds were invested in London Quantum One – a dormant company suspected of being used as a vehicle for pension liberation.
- Among the exotic-sounding high-risk investments made by Mr Ward and Mr Salih were rights to a share of profits in the operation of rooms in a Cape Verde hotel that was still under construction, purported land rights over some Brazilian farmland for the planting and growing of eucalyptus trees, purported leases over a number of car park spaces in Glasgow and Dubai, and a loan and corporate bonds with organisations that later went bust. The car park investments are in a class of investments that have subsequently been highlighted by Action Fraud as potentially fraudulent.
- With his reference to the Upper Tribunal, Mr Salih made an application to suspend the order prohibiting him from being a trustee. The Upper Tribunal judge agreed with TPR that the Upper Tribunal did not have the power to suspend the order or the effect of it.
- 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 TPR’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).