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TPR bans two trustees over scam suspicions

The Pensions Regulator has banned Stephen Alexander Ward and Anthony Salih from acting as trustees after they allowed millions of pounds to be put into suspected scam investments.

The trustees put pension savers’ money into eucalyptus farms, hotel rooms on an African island and car park bays.

TPR’s Determinations Panel found that both men lacked the competence and capability to be trustees and described Ward as reckless and lacking in integrity.

They were warned they could be jailed if they act as a pension scheme trustee in the future.

The men were directors of Dorrixo Alliance (UK), 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 £6m, 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 as an independent trustee to the exclusion of Dorrixo.

The Determinations Panel found 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 he had a serious lack of competence and capability to be a trustee.

Ward did not appeal his prohibition and the panel also found that Salih lacked the competence and capability to be a trustee.

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 Salih robustly.

TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation Nicola Parish says: “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 FCA joined forces in August to launch a new national awareness campaign about pension scams.

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