The Pensions Ombudsman has ruled that ex-Norton boss Stuart Garner acted ‘dishonestly’ – and ordered him to repay an estimated £14 million in pension contributions.
An investigation took place after 30 members of three retirement funds which Garner set up and ran revealed he had repeatedly failed to return their funds when they were due. But he couldn’t. He’d been investing the pension contributions into Norton – which went into administration in January this year.
The ombudsman’s determination reads: “The trustee (Garner) has acted dishonestly and in breach of his duty of no conflict, his duty not to profit and his duty to act with prudence.
“The investments made by [Garner into Norton] on behalf of each of the schemes were made in breach of the trustee’s statutory, investment and trust law duties.”
As a result of the findings, the ombudsman ordered Garner to make a ‘restorative payment’ to all members of his pension scheme (thought to total around £14m) – in addition to £180,000 to the original 30 applicants.
Speaking about the decision, Stephen Timms, the chairman of parliament’s work and pensions select committee, said: “Mr Garner, whose blunted moral antennae have been so forensically exposed by the ombudsman, must now comply with this ruling and return their savings immediately.
“Any further delay will be all the more painful for savers because concerns about this scheme were being raised as long ago as 2014, but somehow even those alarm bells were not enough to prevent this outcome. This shocking case raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the regulators involved and the protections we have for people who fall victim to pension scams.”
The news follows Norton Motorcycles going into administration back in January – before being snapped up a few months later by Indian automotive giant TVS.