The Pensions Ombudsman in the UK has directed former Chief Executive Officer of Norton Motorcycles, Stuart Garner to pay back around 14 million GBP from the retirement funds he was the trustee of. The Pensions Ombudsman, an independent organisation set up by law to investigate complaints and disputes about pension schemes, ruled that Garner was 'dishonest' in his running of the schemes following a lengthy investigation. Garner, who acquired the classic motorcycle brand in 2008, had been under investigation following claims brought initially by 30 members of three retirement funds he set up and ran, that he had repeatedly failed to return their funds when they were due.
The report states that Garner "acted dishonestly and in breach of his duty of no conflict, his duty not to profit and his duty to act with prudence." The report further added that Garner had "breached his statutory duties to have in place adequate controls to manage conflicts of interest and ensure the effective administration of the schemes."
The investigation into the scandal began after Garner failed to transfer funds to the Commando 2012 Pension Scheme, the Donington MC Pension Scheme and the Dominator 2012 Pension Scheme. Instead of releasing the funds into the schemes, which is required of the trustee by law to do within six months, Garner invested the money into the struggling Norton Motorcycles brand.
In addition to repaying the pensions, the Pension Ombudsman also ordered Garner to pay 6,000 GBP to each of the 30 original applicants, totaling 1,80,000 GBP, "in recognition of the distress and inconvenience caused to them by the trustee's exceptional maladministration." In all, 228 people were left without retirement savings. Initial investigations revealed that elderly British pensioners invested their life savings in the funds back in 2012 and 2013 into three separate pension funds.
Stuart Garner ran Norton Motorcycles from 2008 until the company went bust in January this year, after going into administration. In April 2020, India's TVS Motor Company acquired Norton Motorcycles in an all-cash deal of 16 million GBP. Founded in Birmingham in 1898, Norton Motorcycles is among the most popular British motorcycle brands of all time, along with Triumph, BSA and Royal Enfield, which has been under Indian ownership for quite sometime now.
Under TVS ownership now, Norton Motorcycles has retained 55 members of its staff when TVS acquired and has already started hiring, to increase the headcount by 25 per cent. Apart from engineering and operations roles, Norton will also be looking at expanding its workforce across sales, marketing and service. TVS also intends to establish the Norton brand as a truly global brand, using the parent company's global network.