Belling pension dispute settled

A dispute over the withdrawal of £21m from the Belling Pension Fund has been settled out of court by the present and former trustees of the fund.

The £2.1m was removed in May 1991 by the then trustees, who were also directors of Belling & Co, the now defunct gas appliances manufacturer. The money was used as advance payment of interest on a $50m loan that was meant to prop up the ailing Belling business.

Although the advance interest was paid the loan never came and Belling went into receivership in 1992.

Law Debenture Trust, the current trustees, sued Richard Belling, a former director of the company and former trustee of the pension fund, for breach of trust.

Under the settlement, Mr Belling has agreed to pay £150,000 into the fund, and to have his own entitlement, worth about £900,000, placed in the lowest category of priority for payment. Given the shortfall in the assets of the fund it is very likely that he will get nothing.

Jim Wignall, a member of the fund's employee consultative committee, said: "We do not appear to have benefited financially, nor have we got justice. The only people to have benefited are the lawyers."

With the £40,000 paid to the fund by another former trustee who settled last October, the total recovered is £190,000. Mr Wignall said lawyers' fees alone had reached £600,000.

He added: "Mr Belling's pension entitlements being reprioritised is academic. With the shortfalls the money would not be there to pay him or any of the members. None of us will get any money."

Law Debenture Trust still plans to take action over a second transaction, which cost the fund a further £4.1m. Belling used fund money to pay £5.5m for Compound Sections Ltd, which supplied Belling. Compound sections was subsequently sold for £1.4m.