Defined BenefitJun 25 2018

Regulator could chase Carillion bosses for pension cash

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Regulator could chase Carillion bosses for pension cash

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is weighing up plans to force former directors of Carillion to fill the black hole of the collapsed company's defined benefit (DB) pension schemes.

In a letter to the Work and Pensions select committee, Lesley Titcomb, TPR’s chief executive, said that the watchdog is investigating whether it could issue a contribution notice - a legally enforceable demand for a financial contribution to the pension deficit – against individual former directors of Carillion.

This way, the regulator could potentially recover monies in addition to whatever the pension schemes or the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) get from any assets realised from the company’s liquidation.

Ms Titcomb said: "We launched an investigation to determine if there is reason for us to use our anti-avoidance powers.

"The first stage is for us to review the information arising from the insolvency in order to determine whether there are any aspects which could constitute avoidance and which warrant further investigation.

"We are working alongside a number of other agencies who are conducting their own investigations. At this point we are not able to confirm when our investigations will be concluded."

Carillion had 13 final DB in the UK with more than 28,500 members, and an aggregate deficit for PPF purposes of around £800m.

It is expected 11 of these plans will ultimately end up in the pensions lifeboat, with the vast majority of these already in assessment at the pensions lifeboat.

After unsuccessful talks with its lenders and the UK government, Carillion went into liquidation in January.

Labour MP Frank Field, chair of the committee, has welcomed TPR’s plan, since according to analysis of Ernst & Young the PPF could get as little as £12.6m from the company’s assets released after liquidation.

Mr Field said: “By contrast, our analysis of Carillion’s annual accounts suggests that over the past decade, Carillion’s six main directors pocketed nearly £17m in total remuneration.

“Whilst such amounts will not go far in offsetting the largest bill the PPF have ever picked up, estimated at £800m, it is surely the case that these directors have benefitted disproportionately at the expense of the pension schemes they should have been funding.”

He added: “We urge TPR to take this opportunity to demonstrate the new direction and vigour it keeps professing.

“Clear, exemplary action, not words, is necessary now to restore any confidence in its ability do its job and protect the pensions of ordinary people.”

TPR has been heavily criticised for its role in the Carillion collapse, with MPs accusing it of making "hollow threats" and failing “in all its objectives".