WPC writes to TPR following sentencing of ex-Norton Motorcycles boss

The Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) has written to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) following the sentencing of ex-Norton Motorcycles boss, Stuart Garner, asking a series of questions on the regulator’s work relating to the case.

Garner was sentenced on 31 March for illegally investing pension schemes’ money into his business.

In the letter, WPC chair, Stephen Timms, described the member compensation process so far as “frustratingly slow” and said he was aware that there had been complaints about the communications from the trustee, Dalriada, which has so far incurred costs of £496,800.

“If the funds are recovered these costs may well be worthwhile; we found in our report on pension scams that there is an inevitable trade-off between lower fees and better communication,” Timms stated.

“But members of the schemes face a long wait to find out when and how much of their savings will be returned.”

Timms asked the regulator whether it had reviewed or planned to review its interactions with the Norton pension schemes.

He noted that TPR had assured the WPC that, in cases where pension savers’ money had not been properly safeguarded by trustees, TPR always carefully considers if it can and should take forward any regulatory action, and asked the regulator to outline the factors taken into consideration and if these factors had changed over the last 18 months.

TPR was also asked what work it had undertaken since August 2020 to review the risks posed by small schemes and what the process was for determining whether the schemes are eligible for the Fraud Compensation Fund.

Finally, Timms noted that Dalriada had published guidance on possible routes of compensation for members and issued warnings on the risks posed by secondary scammers, and he wanted to know whether the regulator supported trustees in developing guidance and what support was available to members seeking alternative routes of compensation.

Dalriada Trustees professional trustee, Neil Copeland, commented: "On appointment the three schemes had, and continue to have, no liquid funds. The work that Dalriada and its advisers have carried out over the last three years has been undertaken entirely at risk, and neither Dalriada nor it advisers have been paid anything to date.

"The costs accrued to date include third party costs and relate to a range of activities including the work involved in dealing with the Pensions Ombudsman (which resulted in a determination against Mr Garner, which ultimately allowed Dalriada to pursue a claim against him and which led to his bankruptcy) and also assisting TPR in their successful criminal prosecution of Mr Garner.

"Dalriada’s role is to act in the best interests of the members. As we have set out to members (and as Mr Timms alludes to) the best chance of members making a significant recovery is through a claim on the Fraud Compensation Fund (FCF) and both the Ombudsman’s determination and the successful prosecution of Mr Garner should assist in this. Further, to the extent that the costs accrued can be attributable to an act of dishonesty, these too, can be recovered as part of any FCF claim. We anticipate that, in this case, the majority of costs will be attributable to an act of dishonesty and, as such, should not materially impact the amounts returned to members in the event of successful claims on the FCF.

"As Mr Timms recognises in his letter to TPR, there needs to be a balance between communication with members and managing the associated costs. We issue announcements to members when there is anything meaningful to report and have kept members up to date with developments on the TPO complaints, Mr Garner’s prosecution and the potential for claims on the FCF. We have a dedicated member website, member contact e-mail address and phone number."

A spokesperson for The Pensions Regulator said: “We have received the letter and will be responding to it in due course.”

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