Three trustees have been ordered to repay a total of £411,000 to the Asheridge Limited Discretionary Pension Scheme (the Scheme) after being found guilty by the Deputy Pensions Ombudsman of a breach of trust. The trustees were unable to rely on the Scheme’s exoneration provisions as the breaches had been “knowingly committed”.
The Scheme had entered wind-up in 1996 and all members were told by OPRA (the pension scheme regulator at that time) that they were unlikely to receive any benefits as there were no assets left in the Scheme. A pensioner, Mr Went, complained to the Pensions Ombudsman, who found the trustees guilty of maladministration after discovering they had made questionable investments in US property and had made loans of scheme assets to the failing sponsoring employer.
Comment: this case highlights the consequences for trustees if they fail to undertake their investment duties responsibly and to act within the boundaries of their exoneration clause. This case is similar to the Greenup scheme case reported in our update for August 2008, emphasising that the courts and tribuals are willing to find trustees personally liable for deliberate breaches of trust which result in the depletion of a scheme’s assets.
View the determination.