The directors of two pension firms which were closed down have received disqualifications over the companies' mismanagement of members’ funds.
Gleeson Bessent Trustee Services (GBTS) which was incorporated in April 2010, provided pension trustee and administration services to numerous occupational pension schemes, while Gleeson Bessent Trustees (GBT) - the trustee of three of those schemes - was incorporated in September 2012.
The Preston-based firms were wound up in the public interest by the courts in March 2017, and subsequent investigations by the Insolvency Service into the conduct of the four directors has led to them giving disqualification undertakings, which mean they cannot run a company directly or on behalf of someone else.
Roger Bessent, of Lytham St Annes, and Tracy Park, of Freckleton, were directors of GTBS, while Roger Bessent, Matthew Bessent, of Preston, and Neil O’Donnell, of Poulton-le-Fylde, were all directors of GBT.
All four accept they failed to ensure GBTS and GBT properly performed their roles as a trustee of the pension schemes and as a result, member’s funds were exposed to greater levels of risk than that specified in standard guidance issued by The Pensions Regulator.
They accepted six instances of unfit behaviour, including failing to comply with pension legislation and regulatory guidance on what is expected of trustees, as well as operating with a lack of transparency designed to persuade or encourage the public to transfer pension funds into pension schemes which relied on high risk investments.
The case relates to a series of concerns including investments in companies where the accounts and instruments did not reflect the investment made.
The investigation found the companies failed to carry out their functions as trustees or administrators by failing to ensure sufficient share certificates to support investments were received, or to satisfy themselves that there was sufficient evidence of the existence of the investment. They operated with a lack of transparency designed to persuade or encourage members of the public, who were not sophisticated investors, to transfer pension funds into pension schemes which relied on high risk investments.
They also offered "contrived and artificial employment" to members in order to circumvent what was considered to be the guidance at the time, requiring the need for members to be employed by the sponsoring employer of the occupational pension scheme.
Since November Roger Bessent has been disqualified for nine years, Tracy Park for five years and Neil O’Donnell for three-and-a-half years.
In June, Matthew Bessent became disqualified for three-and-a-half years.
Today Scott Crighton, group leader from the Insolvency Service, said: "Companies handling money on behalf of others have a duty to ensure that funds are properly managed.
"Directors who fail in these duties will be investigated and removed from the corporate arena for a lengthy period."