Hundreds of investors have been left with £14m missing from their savings pots after a Preston pension firm was wound up by the High Court this week.Advertisement
The Insolvency Service launched an investigation into Ecroignard Trustees Limited which managed two pension schemes – The Uniway Systems Retirement Benefits Scheme and the Genwick Retirement Benefits Scheme – after complaints from customers.
The investigation revealed a litany of failures by the firm to act in the best interests of the schemes’ 229 members.
On Monday September 2, Deputy District Judge Carter ordered Ecriognard should be wound up at a hearing at the High Court in Manchester.
The Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator.
The investigation found Ecroignard had traded with a lack of commercial integrity. Pension funds were used to invest in vehicles that were illiquid, high-risk and not necessarily suitable for the members.
Roger Bessent, an accountant who was jailed for fraud in April 2019, continued to have executive responsibility within the company after he was disqualified in November 2017.
He remained the sole signatory on the company’s bank account until November 2018.
Read more: Preston accountant stole more than £280,000 from clients to prop up his own businesses
Ecroignard also failed to comply with statutory requirements, best practice guidance and internal governance requirements.
The company failed to ensure that the Uniway pension scheme was properly diversified or seek assurances that funds were put into regulated investments.
Nor were members notified of proposed changes to their chosen investments or given an opportunity to choose how their funds should be invested going forwards.
The company failed to maintain and preserve adequate books and records.
This has meant that it is unclear to investigators whether all investments are accounted for nor can they gain a comprehensive picture of members’ contributions and what payments were from Ecroignard’s bank accounts.
And the Preston-based company also demonstrated a lack of transparency and adequate stewardship.
It is unclear who has been involved and responsible for the management of Ecroignard since Roger Bessent resigned as a director in April 2017.
There are also concerns that the official current director, Anthony Waterfield, has insufficient knowledge of Ecroignard’s trading to be able to manage the company.
He has also been unable to provide key information to investigators, such as the schemes’ assets and the status of the schemes.
Read more: Preston Guild Hall firm bein investigated for missing pension payments
Scott Crighton, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “When people invest their pension funds as a way of planning for their futures, they don’t expect their saving pots to be put at risk.
“Ecroignard’s management of the pension schemes, however, raised considerable red flags and questions remain which will need to be looked into by the Official Receiver as liquidator of the company.
“If you are considering moving your pension into an investment scheme, we strongly recommend you do your research beforehand and if you believe you have been affected by Ecroignard to contact the Official Receiver as soon possible.”
Members of the public who have been affected by the actions of Ecroignard can contact the Official Receiver at email@example.com with details of their case.