AN investment house in Blackburn. which looks after pension pots worth £130million, has gone into administration.

Staff at Capricorn Business Park based Guardian Pensions Consultants have been retained while administrators Smith and Williamson attempt to sell the firm as a going concern.

Only one director remained at the Blakewater Road company - Kathryn Taylor, of Back Lane, Charnock Richard - with other board members with ties to Clitheroe, Samlesbury, Chorley and Standish having previously stepped down.

Troubled GPC administered self-invested personal pension schemes (SIPPs) which had been affected by alternative investment initiatives, such as Harlequin.

Under Harlequin, funds were secured to build villas in the Caribbean, offering substantial returns. But the properties never materialised and the investments proved worthless.

Now GPC could also be facing scores of legal claims by disgruntled investors, amid allegations they were mis-sold SIPPs hit by Harlequin and other unsuccessful alternative investment schemes.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme has already confirmed it has paid out in respect of a number of GPC claims - but their maximum payout is £85,000 and some investors' losses dwarf this figure.

A number of claims are also understood to have been lodged with the Financial Services Ombudsman.

Administrator Adam Stephenson said: "In line with our objectives, the joint administrators are continuing to trade the business whilst in ongoing discussions with a number of interested parties as part of our work to try to sell the company's business as a going concern.

"Any interested parties should contact the company immediately. All existing employees have been retained as part of this process."

Guardian Pension Trustees Ltd, which GPC administers and holds pension plans totalling £130million, has not been placed into administration.

READ > Blackburn soft furnishings firm goes bust after 84 years

A spokesman for the FSCS confirmed the scheme was now accepting GPC claims and added: "We're aware that many GPC customers were advised by independent financial advisers to transfer existing pensions into a GPC SIPP.

"Following the pension transfer, customers had their pension funds placed in high risk, non-standard investments, many of which have become illiquid.

"FSCS has already assessed and paid a number of claims made against IFAs already declared in default by us, in relation to advice customers received to transfer their pension into a GPC SIPP."

The scheme's investigators must determine, in particular cases, whether outside advisors have persuaded investors to place funds with GPC or the company is itself to blame.