The former owner of the Norton Motorcycles brand has been ordered to repay up to £14million missing from pension retirement funds he was in control of.
Stuart Garner was the man who brought Norton back from the almost dead, to to actually start producing motorcycles and racing at the Isle of Man TT, but financial problems saw the company fold earlier this year.
Problems surfaced when it was revealed people who were looking to access their pensions were having difficulty getting their money out of schemes run by Garner.
The Pensions Ombudsman has now ruled that Garner acted “dishonestly” after it was revealed he had repeatedly failed to give back funds to the Commando 2012 Pensions Scheme, Donington MC Pension Scheme and the Dominator 2012 Pension Scheme. All of these pension schemes were named after the location of the Norton factory or models in the Norton motorcycle range.
The Pensions Scheme Act lays down rules that requires trustees to transfer pensions within six months of an application. The investigation found evidence money had been extracted from the various pension schemes and directly into Norton in order to shore up finances. Norton Motorcycles fell into administration in January 2020.
It was later bought out by Indian manufacturing giant TVS for £16million in April and has begun the process of restarting manufacturing and sorting through orders for new bikes.
The Pensions Ombudsman ruling stated:
“The Trustee [Garner] acted dishonestly and in breach of his duty of no conflict, his duty not to profit and his duty to act with prudence; and the investments made by the [Garner into Norton] on behalf of each of the Schemes were made in breach of the Trustee’s statutory, investment and trust law duties.
“The money owed is estimated to be around £14m in total. Garner must also pay £180,000 to the original 30 applicants because of “exceptional maladministration causing injustice”.
Stephen Timms, 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.”