Think back to the end of June, 2020. That’s when the UK’s Pensions Ombudsman officially stated that former Norton Motorcycles CEO Stuart Garner must repay around £14m to some of the pensioners who lost out in his schemes.
For those unaware, Garner was a trustee for three Norton pension schemes that subsequently funded his administration’s oversight of Norton Motorcycles. These schemes were invested into by regular pensioners, not employees. After a lengthy and detailed investigation, the Pensions Ombudsman made an official finding of “exceptional maladministration causing injustice” against Garner in June, 2020.
At the beginning of July, 2020, Garner spoke to the press for the first time since the ruling, and said he was fairly certain that the missing money would be recovered when the Norton Motorcycles business got sold. Later that month, the UK Companies House publicly released Norton’s Statement of Affairs, which seemed to tally up with Garner’s earlier statement.
It’s now December, 2020—well past the point that Norton’s new owners, TVS, took the reins and immediately began rebuilding this historic British marque. If you thought we were done with the pension part of this tale, you’ll need to think again. It seems that while Stuart Garner publicly spoke about how the pensioners should get their money back, he also quietly filed an appeal against the Pensions Ombudsman’s ruling. According to new reporting from the Guardian, that appeal has now been denied.
In August, the court issued an order to delay repayment, stating “The sum likely to be payable … is extremely large and it is readily understandable that [Garner] will not be able to pay it and that, as a result, he is liable to be made bankrupt.” Indeed, as of December, the Leicester city council has already filed a bankruptcy petition on Garner’s behalf. The former CEO is also currently appealing the £180,000 that the Pensions Ombudsman declared he owed as “distress payments” to pensioners for repeatedly refusing to return their funds when they asked for them.
We certainly can’t speak to the man’s motivations. However, the facts certainly appear as though Garner was talking out both sides of his mouth regarding repayment of these funds to the pensioners he’d allegedly bilked. Whether this cynical tactic succeeds, or merely delays the necessity of payment for so long that it feels like it’s succeeded, the people who continue to lose in this situation are those pensioners. Both the financial and the emotional tolls keep stacking up higher and higher for those families, and we probably shouldn’t have expected otherwise in 2020.