A Kent pension company has been ordered into liquidation at the High Court after an Insolvency Service investigation revealed it had abused over £4m of investors’ savings
Chartwell Trustee Pension Solutions Ltd (Chartwell), was the sole trustee of the Pinnacle Pension Scheme and was incorporated in December 2007. Its registered office was Kingfisher House, Bromley, Kent.
The Insolvency Service investigation was launched following complaints received by it and Action Fraud.
This found the company was entrusted with in excess of £4.8m of members’ pension funds following an apparent cold-calling telesales operation. Members were told that they could expect a guaranteed 8% return into their pension for the first two years and that further returns may follow.
Members were told their pensions would be invested in ‘storage products’. However, records provided by the company to the Insolvency Service investigators were incomplete, and it did not provide the investigators with an adequate explanation for the application of the funds it received.
Customers experienced enormous difficulties in contacting the company, received very little information from the company and do not appear to have been issued with any annual returns, which are supposed to provide them with details of their invested funds, since October 2015.
Investigators were unable to obtain any clear view of how the company operated and records the company did provide were incomplete, inconsistent, and contradicted information the company had itself provided to The Pensions Regulator.
The company was wound up in June. The judge found that the company operated with a lack of commercial probity, a lack of transparency, and without any presence at its registered office address.
Nobody appeared on behalf of the company to oppose the winding up petition.
The company’s sole director at the time of winding up was Christopher Payne. He and another former director of Chartwell, Karen Burton, were previously directors of Imperial Trustee Services Ltd, which was also wound up by the Insolvency Service on a public interest petition in 2015.
That company was involved in a scheme in which members of the public were cold-called and persuaded to transfer their existing occupational pensions into two pension schemes on the basis of misrepresentations about the potential returns and where the money would be invested.
Irshard Mohammed, investigation supervisor, of the Insolvency Service, said: ‘Those behind companies such as Chartwell should be aware that the Insolvency Service will not tolerate such abuses of the corporate regime. It is telling that this situation appears to have arisen from telephone cold-calling.
‘Members of the public should be most wary when approached with investment proposals or proposals of how to manage their pension, through unsolicited telephone calls.’
Report by Pat Sweet