At the point of administration, Southend-based Speed-e-Loans.com Limited (SEL), which only traded for two years, had assets listed at £150,269 and liabilities to creditors of more than £4.3m.
The directors of SEL have been disqualified after an investigation by the Insolvency Service (IS) led to a ban for Philip Miller for nine years, Robert Alan Davies for six years and Daniel Jonathan Miller for five years. All three directors breached their fiduciary duties and the duties of care, skill and diligence, said the IS.
Philip Miller caused, while his son, Daniel Jonathan Miller, and Robert Alan Davies allowed, SEL, at a time when it was not solvent and had ceased lending to new clients to receive funds from private investors through pension liberation schemes. These investors became liable to pay a substantial tax charge and were also exposed to the risk of penalties.
SEL received £1,210,860.06 from private investors, funds which were in jeopardy and were in fact lost.
SEL traded as a payday loan provider from February 2010 until July 2012, when its then managing director was suspended and a new manager appointed, but the firm closed in August 2012.
Phillip Miller, also major shareholder in SEL presented a proposal to receive moneys from a pensions liberation scheme set up by third party brokers.
SEL was to be the underlying investment through which members of the public derived guaranteed annual dividend payments of 5% as well as a guaranteed return of the whole of their “investments” in ten years. The terms were that SEL would receive 54% of the moneys provided by the public but be contractually obliged to repay 100% plus the annual 5% dividend. The board agreed by majority to the proposals and set in place the necessary pension trusts and paperwork.
From October 2012, members of the public invested at least £2.6m through brokers, of which at least £1.2m was received by SEL and none of which was invested, but instead siphoned across to pay off company debt.
In January 2013 SEL became aware that that one of the brokers responsible for the scheme was on trial for fraud but the firm continued receiving investments until May 2013.
During May 2013 a BBC documentary was shown raising clear concerns over such schemes. SEL sought professional advice and entered into administration in June 2013.
Cheryl Lambert, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: “The directors were collectively, and at the kindest interpretation, recklessly negligent in their desperation to save the company. None of them asked simple, obvious questions when it should have been clear to them the brokers were taking nearly 50% in fees, nor the type of scheme they had become involved with and the individuals who were pushing the scheme.
“Philip Miller, the proposer and principal character, stood to gain financially from individual the transactions through a commission and so his actions demand the harshest criticism.
She continued: “Taking action against the people most responsible is a warning to all directors that such behaviour will attract in a very significant sanction. You cannot hide behind a lack of technical knowledge of specialist schemes – you have to exercise independent and critical thought.”