13 year ban for boss who lost £24m from client pensions

Darren Antony Reynolds, 51, from Willenhall, West Midlands, was the sole director of Active Wealth (UK) Limited, an independent financial advice company.

A chartered financial planner, Reynolds advised hundreds of clients on the best way to invest their pension funds from December 2014 to the company’s liquidation in February 2018.

Following Active Wealth’s liquidation, an Insolvency Service investigation found that between December 2014 and December 2016, Darren Reynolds had failed to act in the best interests of the company’s clients.

Following his advice, at least 288 clients transferred more than £23 million from their existing pensions to Self-Invested Personal Pension Schemes (SIPPs) which saw their funds invested in a portfolio of investments in corporate bonds called Portfolio Six.

These were high risk and described as ‘relatively illiquid’ and ‘unregulated’. They were specifically excluded from the protection offered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) when investments were made directly.

The bonds were only available for direct investment to experienced high net worth or sophisticated investors, or those who had received advice from an independent financial company who declared they had the experience and knowledge to understand the risks.

Reynolds said that Active Wealth relied upon due diligence undertaken by the fund manager of Portfolio Six. However, he knew or ought to have known that this was not impartial nor independent as its directors were associated with companies within Portfolio Six.

The investigation found that in at least eight applications, Darren Reynolds made inaccurate declarations when describing his clients’ investment experience and appetite for financial risk.

At liquidation, Active Wealth’s clients had claimed more than £10 million in compensation from the FSCS as a result of advice received. However, as individual claims were capped at £50,000, the actual loss suffered by Active Wealth’s clients is more than £24 million.

On 25 May 2021, in the Manchester High Court of Justice, DJ Obodai disqualified Darren Reynolds as a company director for a period of 13 years.

This means he cannot, directly or indirectly, become involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

Rob Clarke, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said:

This is a very sad situation for these victims who believed Darren Reynolds and his company was providing professional investment advice in their best interests but instead placed their future financial security in high risk and unsuitable investments.

13 years is a significant ban and removing Darren Reynolds from the corporate arena will protect other investors from further harm for a lengthy period of time.

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