UK Firm Shuttered Over Pension Plan Mismanagement

Ecroignard Trustees was accused of investing in risky, illiquid vehicles.

A UK company that managed two pension plans has been closed down by the courts after it failed to properly maintain its participants’ funds.

Ecroignard Trustees Limited, based in Preston, was shuttered by the High Court in Manchester following an investigation by government regulator the Insolvency Service.

The company was the trustee of The Uniway Systems Retirement Benefits Scheme and the Genwick Retirement Benefits Scheme. After receiving complaints, the Insolvency Service said it conducted confidential investigations into the company’s activities before uncovering several instances of misconduct.

Investigators uncovered that Ecroignard had traded with “a lack of commercial integrity,” said the Insolvency Service in a release. It said that the plans’ funds were used to invest in vehicles that were illiquid, highly risky, and not suitable for its members.

According to the Insolvency Service, Ecroignard did not comply with statutory requirements, best practice guidance, and internal governance requirements. It also said the firm failed to ensure that the Uniway pension plan was properly diversified, and did not seek assurances that funds were put into regulated investments.

Additionally, members of the plans weren’t notified of proposed changes to their chosen investments, and weren’t able to decide how their funds should be invested.

“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,” Scott Crighton, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said in a statement. “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.”

The Insolvency Service said Ecroignard “demonstrated a lack of transparency and adequate stewardship.” It also said that because the company didn’t maintain and preserve adequate books and records, its investigators were unable to determine whether all investments are accounted, and were unable to get a clear picture of members’ contributions, and which payments were from Ecroignard’s bank accounts.

It also said it had concerns that Anthony Waterfield, who is currently the official director of the company “has insufficient knowledge of Ecroignard’s trading to be able to manage the company,” adding that “he has also been unable to provide key information to investigators, such as the schemes’ assets and the status of the schemes.”

Government investigators also said that Roger Bessent appeared to still have executive authority within the company, despite having been barred for nine years in November 2017 from acting in the management of companies. They said he remained the sole signatory on the company’s bank account until at least October 2018.

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