Norton Motorcycle’s CEO Stuart Garner did not appear at a recent hearing on Norton’s pension scheme. Members of the fund fear that their retirement savings are lost.
Mr. Garner did not appear in front of a pensions ombudsman to answer claims brought by members of a pension fund that Garner and associates had created. Worryingly, 30 members of the public allege that Mr. Garner did not release the pension funds when they became due.
Investigations by the UK media outlets The Guardian and ITV say that 228 people allegedly have been duped by Garner and his associates to invest up to £14M ($18.25M). The UK media outlets said that the money came from “ordinary working people”. Their funds were allegedly invested via Garner’s retirement schemes into Norton shares.
Despite Garner’s absence from the hearing, the pensions ombudsman heard evidence from two victims. They claim that Garner had failed for years to return their retirement funds when requested. The UK’s Pension Schemes Act requires trustees to transfer pensions within six months of an application. Mr. Garner is a trustee of the funds in question.
Failed to return funds
One witness, Sally Holmes said that her ill father had applied to withdraw from his pension in August 2017. To date, Garner allegedly has not returned the funds. And, Holme’s father has now died.
The alleged delay continued despite an ombudsman directing Garner in May 2019 to transfer the man’s pension fund “within 21 days”. That ruling described Garner’s behavior as “inexcusable.”
The Guardian also alleges that many of the affected pension holders were financially vulnerable at the time they transferred their pension money to Garner’s pension funds. Those people were allegedly told that they would receive a tax-free lump sum for agreeing to the transfer. But the lump-sum distributions were in reality, not tax-free and left victims with substantial tax bills.
Convicted of fraud
Several participants in the Norton pension fiasco have been convicted of fraud. Simon Colfer was convicted of fraud in 2018 for the way he sold the pension scheme. Two directors of the company managing the Norton pension scheme, Andrew Meeson, and Peter Bradley were convicted in separate tax fraud cases. They reclaimed £5M ($6.5M) in tax rebates from fictitious pension contributions and were convicted in 2013.
According to court documents, about £4m of the £5m was then paid out by Meeson and Bradley to friends, family, and associates, including a £990,000 loan that Garner he used to originally buy the Norton brand in 2008.
According to the Guardian, Garner has said that he did not know he was dealing with fraudsters, considers himself a victim, and denies any wrongdoing.
Whatever the truth is, it’s a sad state of affairs for the Norton brand and the people that rely on the company.
Note: The word “scheme” is used in the UK like the word “plan” is in the USA. The use of the word “scheme” does not in itself indicate any criminal wrongdoing.