Pensions  

Brewery boss fined for failing to hand info to regulator

Brewery boss fined for failing to hand info to regulator

A brewery and its chairman have been ordered to pay nearly £28,000 after failing to hand over information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

The Pensions Regulator required information about Samuel Smith Old Brewery's financial position following the submission of the 2015 valuation of some of the company's final salary pension schemes.

The information was needed to allow The Pensions Regulator to understand whether the pension schemes were being adequately supported but it was not provided until three months after the deadline set in the regulator's rulebook, once criminal proceedings had already begun.

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At Brighton Magistrates’ Court today (30 July), company chairman Humphrey Smith was fined £8,000 and Samuel Smith Old Brewery fined £18,750. They were also ordered to pay £1,240 in costs and victim surcharges.

Both pleaded guilty to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse, contrary to the Pensions Act 2004.

Humphrey Smith was charged on the basis that he consented to or connived in the offence by the company, or caused it by his neglect.

In May the court heard Mr Smith had described the regulator's demands as "tiresome", accused it of being bossy and said it enjoyed closing down pension schemes for "hard-working people" in order to justify its employees' high salaries.

Referring to the "very terse tone" of the company’s refusal to provide information as she delivered the sentencing, District Judge Teresa Szagun said there was a need to stop individuals from taking an obstructive approach to requests by TPR for information.

She said ‎it was important that the public had confidence in a "robust process to investigate and protect" pension savers.

The case is the sixth criminal conviction secured by TPR against individuals or organisations for failing to comply with Section 72 notices.

Nicola Parish, The Pensions Regulator's executive director of frontline regulation, said: "Mr Smith and the brewery could have avoided this fine and a criminal conviction by simply complying with our notice requiring the information to be provided.

"Our ability to request information is a necessary part of our regulatory toolkit and we take it very seriously when parties do not cooperate with us.

"People who ignore our notices asking them to provide information should expect us to launch a criminal prosecution.

"As Mr Smith has discovered, becoming compliant with our requests after a court summons has been served will not halt criminal proceedings."

damian.fantato@ft.com