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FOI reference - FOI 2017-02-08
Date - 08/02/2017

Request

Is it possible to provide us with an estimate of costs so far to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) arising from the Silentnight case? I see this case has been long and involved lawyers.

I would like to know what the costs have been since to TPR associated with this case, from beginning to present day.
I am aware that the scheme went into pre-pack administration in 2011.

Response

I can confirm that we hold the information you have requested. However, we are unable to supply some of the information requested for the reason set out below.

Information we are able to supply

I can confirm that the external costs incurred on the Silentnight anti-avoidance case up to the 19 January 2017 are as follows:

  • total external expenditure £1,405,485 (including VAT)

With regard to the internal costs associated to the Silentnight case, when proceeding with an investigation and any subsequent regulatory action we rely heavily on our internal resources. We do not at this time break down the cost of our internal resources at the level of individual cases. Our case management process allocates internal resources flexibly on a basis of need, as each case moves forward, to ensure the most effective and efficient use of the experts we have in-house, who may be attached to a number of cases.

Information we are not able to supply

We also hold costs information relating to the judicial review challenge of the Silentnight case, that was recently reported on in the media and via a press release we issued. However, this information is exempt from disclosure under section 31(1)(c) of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) as it is not yet complete and it is likely to be the subject of future costs recovery negotiations and / or proceedings. We consider that disclosure of the incomplete costs information we hold in relation to the judicial review proceedings might prejudice TPR’s ability to recover all relevant amounts from the claimants in those proceedings.

Public interest test

The exemption at section 31(1)(c) of the FoIA is a qualified exemption which requires a public interest test be carried out. The ‘public interest’ means the ‘public good’ and not just what is of interest to the public or the private interests of particular requesters.

As a public body there is very strong interest in the work we do and how we use the funds available to us, but also there is a strong public interest in our ability to recover costs back into the public purse through the appropriate legal process. Any disclosure that would hinder or prejudice the ability to do so would not be in the public interest which places importance in the overall cost efficiency of public bodies. It would not be in the public interest for TPR to have to defend any discrepancy between the amount of costs disclosed into the public domain via this request and any costs amount that TPR might legitimately seek to recover from the claimants in due course. We have applied the exemption to withhold costs information in order to enable us to undertake the appropriate legal process without the prejudice that we consider would be likely to occur from this disclosure.

Therefore, whilst there is interest at the current time in the level of external expenditure in this case the overriding public interest lies in maintaining the exemption under section 31(1)(c) and withholding this part of the information you have requested.

We are therefore unable to supply this information on this occasion.

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