Business

Fraud allegations in pension sales

  • 8 December 2015
  • From the section Business
Money in a jar
Image caption More than 1,000 people were persuaded to invest in Store First storage units

Salesmen have told the BBC they lied and forged to persuade investors to part with pensions worth £100m.

The money was invested in buying storage units from Lancashire-based Store First Ltd.

Pension holders told Radio 4's You & Yours they were promised high returns for renting the units out, but these have not materialised.

Store First says it was unaware of the allegations and is not responsible for the sales tactics.

The firm operates a chain of self-storage warehouses across the UK and sponsored Accrington Stanley Football Club until August 2015.

The Liverpool sales company Jackson Francis Ltd was paid through an intermediary by Store First to cold call people with "dormant pensions" - savings they had accrued under previous employers.

From 2011, more than 1,000 people were persuaded by Jackson Francis staff to move these pensions into the Store First scheme.

David Griffiths from Sutton Coldfield said: "They brought me glossy booklets, with jolly people shaking hands.

"They told me it was a very good investment, and that many people have had their money back off it, so I looked on their website, and it looked all kosher."

But You & Yours heard former salesmen from Jackson Francis claim their immediate managers told them to lie to get clients signed up. They admitted forging documents, and say they witnessed other staff copying client signatures.

'I want it back'

David's entire pension pot of £66,000 was used to buy Store First units called "storage pods", which he's still trying to sell.

Others have failed to sell their units after three years of trying, despite being promised an easy route out of the scheme by Store First.

David added: "I'm annoyed with myself, and I'm even more annoyed with the people who took it off me. It's £66,000 and I want it back."

One former Jackson Francis salesman said he'd seen colleagues fill out paperwork on customers' behalf and forge signatures, adding: "You'd see them practising on a piece of paper until they got it right, and then they'd sign."

Another former salesman said he witnessed the ticking of boxes on forms, which indicated investors were happy with a high level of risk - when the question had never been asked.

Ferraris

Two investors who have received the predicted income are used as testimonials on the Store First website.

Over two years, Store First owner Toby Whittaker paid £33m commission to Transeuro Worldwide Holdings Ltd, which funded Jackson Francis.

Transeuro was controlled by his friend and former co-director of Store First Midlands Limited, Mike Talbot, from Knutsford, Cheshire. Mr Whittaker also lent the Transeuro boss Rolls Royces and two Ferraris while Mr Talbot was based in Liverpool.

The same Liverpool-based sales team persuaded 500 people to invest in the now defunct Capita Oak and Henley Retirement Benefit Schemes.

These two schemes were also invested in Store First, with pensioners promised the same high returns. Toby Whittaker of Store First says he did pass on returns to Transeuro and does not know why the schemes did not receive them.

Toby Whittaker and Mike Talbot had previously operated Dylan Harvey, a property investment company that collapsed owing investors millions.

Toby Whittaker, owner of Store First, maintained that Jackson Francis, now in liquidation, was a sales agent and he was not responsible for their tactics, saying: "My company's sales agents are not employed to give financial advice, they are employed to explain the product, not to advise whether [it] is suitable for an individual's investment portfolio."

Mike Talbot says he had no management or control of Jackson Francis so can't comment on the allegations and the director of Jackson Francis says he is unaware of the claimed sales tactics. Salesmen have told the BBC they lied and forged to persuade investors to part with pensions worth £100m.