Pensions Regulator  

Regulator cracks down harder on schemes

Regulator cracks down harder on schemes

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is increasingly seeking information from trustees and advisers on pension schemes while it has also upped its enforcement action in the past years.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) requested by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, published yesterday (August 19), found almost 937 requests for information about pension scheme administration and legislative compliance have been made by TPR since 2010.

The highest number of requests were made in 2018 at 162, compared with 51 so far this year.

The data signalled an increased crackdown in the latter part of the decade as the five years to June 2019 saw a 133 per cent increase in the number of requests, which totalled 656, compared with 281 requests from 2010 to 2014.

Under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004, the regulator can require individuals or businesses to produce any documents or information TPR considers relevant to its oversight of pension schemes.

The FOI data showed that between 2010 and 2016 TPR took no enforcement actions against individuals or organisations who failed to provide the relevant information requested. 

However, in 2017 enforcement action was taken in four cases, this was the same for 2018. 

There has been no enforcement action in 2019 to date.

One example of regulatory action was that taken against Dominic Chappell, the former director and majority shareholder of the company that bought BHS for £1, who in January was convicted of three offences of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents to TPR without a reasonable excuse, which he appealed.

He appealed against both the conviction and sentence but lost his appeal at Hove Crown Court in September.

In December he was ordered to pay a £50,000 fine, £73,900 costs and a £170 victim surcharge.

Samantha Brown, partner in Herbert Smith Freehills' employment, pensions and incentives practice, said: "Requests from the regulator can be wide ranging and can require information to be provided within a very short time-frame.

"Anyone who receives a section 72 notice should review the scope of the request carefully and consider early on whether an extension may be needed."

She added: “Relevant information and documents should be reviewed to check whether any should be withheld or redacted, for example, on privilege or data protection grounds. 

“The cost of complying with a section 72 notice can quickly rack up and trustees and sponsors should check whether they may also be on the hook for costs incurred by their advisers and service providers."

Tim Morris, independent financial adviser at Russell & Co, said TPR should also use its enforcement powers to ensure trustees monitor what investments advisers are suggesting for pension schemes.

Mr Morris said: "The TPR recently used its enforcement powers to crack down on scams, which is a good use of resources.

"[It should also] use these powers to ensure trustees monitor what investments advisers transfer schemes into.

"This would mean less chance of the money being invested in unregulated investments."

amy.austin@ft.com

What do you think about the issues raised by this story? Email us on fa.letters@ft.com to let us know.