UK - The UK's Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) has launched an investigation into the advice given by an individual and by accounting and consultancy firm Mazars to trustees of the First Quench Pension Fund, which was bought in 2007 through a controversial deal by Pension Corporation.

A statement issued by the AADB said it is investigating the possible misconduct of said partiesin relation to the advice given to the pension fund's trustee board about the replacement of the drinks group, then known as First Quench, as sponsor to the fund.

The deal was scrutinised at the time as Pension Corporation bought First Quench, owner of the Thresher wine stores, and its pension fund in June 2007 and then sold the company three weeks later to Vision Capital. PenCorp Investments assumed full control and liability for the Threshers pension scheme, which had assets of £85m (€95.4m), along with £32m in additional assets from First Quench's balance sheet to be set aside in an escrow account underpinning its liabilities. (See earlier IPE article: Novel approach hits problems)

No specific details are being given by any of the parties involved about the investigation, but AADB said the investigation into the professional conduct of an individual and Mazars has been launched following a complaint from The Pensions Regulator and consultation with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

The investigation is said to be looking at whether there was misconduct in "the engagement of Mazars LLP to provide advice to the Trustee of the First Quench Pension Fund in respect of a proposed replacement of First Quench Retailing Limited as the sponsoring employer of the First Quench Pension Fund, and the advice given by Mazars LLP in that regard".

In response, Mazars said:" We are surprised at the AADB's decision to launch an investigation into this matter. We are confident that the advice provided was to the highest professional standards and we will of course fully cooperate with the AADB during the course of the investigation."

The Pensions Regulator also said it was unable to comment on the specifics of any case so could not shed light on its complaint.

The AADB acts as an independent disciplinary service to all UK chartered accountancy bodies.

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