Pensions  

Regulator tackles threatening trustee chairman

Regulator tackles threatening trustee chairman

The boss of a company that packages some of Britain’s most famous brands has been convicted of refusing to give information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

Thomas Christopher Wrigley, who was both the chief executive and major shareholder of Discovery Flexibles, as well as being the chairman of trustees for the company’s pension scheme, repeatedly refused to comply with TPR’s requests for information in connection with an investigation into how the scheme was being run, the regulator said.

The watchdog had been tipped off by a whistleblower that Wrigley, in his role as chair of trustees, was considering investing more than £1.2m of pension scheme funds in Discovery Flexibles.

TPR said there were restrictions on the proportion of an occupational pension scheme’s funds that trustees may invest in its sponsoring employer and the form this may take, so it launched an investigation into whether these restrictions had been breached.

When pushed for a response to its questions by TPR, Wrigley threatened the watchdog’s case manager involved, saying: "If you cross me again I will come after you, personally, with my legal team."

TPR referred Wrigley’s refusal to provide information to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which is responsible for prosecutions in Scotland, where the offence occurred.

After the COPFS launched a prosecution against him, Wrigley pleaded guilty at Dundee Sheriff Court to a charge of failing or refusing to provide information to TPR without good excuse. He was fined £400.

Due to ongoing concerns about governance of the pension scheme, the regulator’s determination panel banned him from being a trustee and has appointed an independent party instead.

The regulator said that it was concerned about Wrigley’s integrity, his inappropriate behaviour and his failure to manage the conflict of interest of him being both chairman of the pension scheme trustees and chief executive of the sponsoring employer.

According to Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, Wrigley earned himself a criminal record by refusing to give the information he was legally required to.

She said: "His behaviour towards TPR staff doing their job was intolerable so I welcome the fact that the determination panel took this into consideration when it decided to prohibit him.

"Complying with our powers is not optional – if we ask you for information under Section 72 you must provide it.

"If you fail to give us information we’ve asked for, you should be prepared to be prosecuted - and convicted."

TPR has pledged to be ‘clearer, quicker and tougher’ in its approach, by embedding a new regulatory culture and reinforcing its regulatory teams on the frontline.

In May, Mark Boyle, chairman at the regulator, said: "In the coming year, you can expect to see us being more vocal about our expectations of those we regulate and intervening quickly and decisively through our wide-ranging regulatory activity and enforcement powers so that workplace pension schemes are run properly and people can save safely for retirement."