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Trustees banned for pushing transfers into high-risk investments

The directors of two pension trustee and administration firms have been banned from running any company for 21 years for their role in persuading unsophisticated investors to move to schemes backed by high-risk investments.

Roger Bessent, Matthew Bessent, Neil O’Donnell and Tracy Park were directors of Preston-based Gleeson Bessent Trustees, which serviced a number of occupational schemes.

The firm, along with sister company Gleeson Bessent Trustee Services, was wound down after court proceedings last March.

An Insolvency Service investigation has now found the directors operated “with a lack of transparency designed to persuade or encourage the public, who were not sophisticated investors, to transfer pension funds into pension schemes which relied on high risk investments”.

The four directors did not contest that they “made investments in companies where the accounts and instruments did not reflect the investment made” and “offered contrived and artificial ‘employment’ to members” to get around regulatory guidance.

In total, the directors accepted six counts of unfit behaviour, including breaching The Pension Regulator’s trustee guidance and failing to meet standards under pension legislation.

Insolvency Service group leader Scott Crighton says: “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.”

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