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Details of meetings with Carillion

FOI reference - FOI 2018-03-07
Date - 07/03/2018

Request

  1. The number of meetings The Pensions Regulator (TPR) have had with Carillion each year from 2008 and onwards.
  2. Any minutes and / or outcomes of meetings between Carillion and TPR from 2008 and onwards.
  3. Any minutes or outcomes of any meetings at TPR in which Carillion was discussed.
  4. Details of the number of meetings and any minutes of said meetings between TPR and the Carillion Pension Fund Trustees.

Responce

Duty to confirm or deny

I can confirm that we hold information falling within scope of your request, however, we are unable to supply some of the information requested for the reasons set out below.

Information we are able to supply

I can confirm that we are able to supply the following information that you have requested.

1. The number of meetings TPR have had with Carillion each year from 2008 and onwards.

Number of meetings between TPR and Carillion each year from 2008 to Jan 2018*

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Total
Total number of meetings with Carillion 0 0 1 0 0 3 4 2 1 13 0 24

4. Details of the number of meetings and any minutes of said meetings between TPR and the Carillion Pension Fund Trustees.

Number of meetings between TPR and Carillion Pension Fund Trustees**

  2008  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Total
Total number of meetings between TPR and Carillion Pension Fund Trustees
0 0 1 2 2 3 3 3 1 26 4 45

*The meetings relate to the 13 defined benefit (DB) schemes supported by the Carillion group, including the six ‘single trustee schemes’.

**There may be overlaps between the two tables that reflect instances where both Carillion and the Carillion Pension Fund Trustees were in attendance at the same meeting.

To provide further context, a number of meetings were with the trustee of ‘single trustee schemes’ and the company in an effort to reach agreement on an acceptable valuation and recovery plan for the five schemes that shared a December 2011 valuation date. Agreement was eventually reached in June 2014. The majority of the meetings occurred following Carillion’s July 2017 profit warning when TPR entered into a period of frequent and close contact with the pension trustee and company. In this type of situation, TPR’s focus is on ensuring that the pension schemes are being treated equally with other creditors and stakeholders as events unfold and ensuring that that trustees have access to appropriate advice in the event of a restructuring proposal.

Information we are not able to supply

2. Any minutes and / or outcomes of meetings between Carillion and TPR from 2008 and onwards.

3. Any minutes or outcomes of any meetings at TPR in which Carillion was discussed. This information engages exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) at sections 31(1)(g), 31(2)(b) and 2(c) and at section 44(1)(a), detailed below.

Section 44(1)(a) – restricted information under section 82 Pensions Act 2004 (PA04)

As we have been given strong powers to demand documents and other information from trustees, employers and others, those powers are also balanced by restrictions on the disclosure of information provided to us. Whilst we acknowledge that TPR’s minutes in themselves may not be information we have obtained, they are in this context, inextricably linked with information which we have obtained and which falls within the definition of ‘restricted information’ in section 82 of the PA04. Restricted information is defined at section 82(4) of the PA04 as 'information obtained by the Regulator in the exercise of its functions which relates to the business or other affairs of any person’.

Under section 82(5) of the PA04 it is a criminal offence to disclose such information except as permitted under that Act.

Section 44(1)(a) of the FoIA provides an absolute exemption to the requirement to disclose information if its disclosure is prohibited by or under any enactment. In this case, section 82 of the PA04 prohibits disclosure and we are unable to disclose information requested at points 2 and 3 of your request. This exemption is absolute and does not require a public interest assessment to be undertaken.

Section 31 – Law enforcement

Whilst we hold minutes and outcomes of meetings with Carillion, we consider this information is also exempt from disclosure under section 31(1)(g) of the FoIA, as TPR investigations into Carillion are ongoing. We consider that disclosure of the minutes and outcomes of these meetings we hold in relation to Carillion would be likely to prejudice TPR’s ability to exercise its functions.

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 from time to time interest in the work we do, but also there is a strong public interest in protecting our ability to effectively carry out our statutory functions and to follow the appropriate legal processes in doing so. We consider disclosure that would hinder or prejudice our ability to do so would not be in the public interest. In addition, disclosing the information requested would be likely to divert resources away from the important task of conducting the investigation to dealing with satellite requests or queries around the information contained in the minutes.

In the circumstances we have applied the exemption in section 31 to withhold the minutes and outcomes as we consider the public interest in withholding this information outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this time.

Therefore, whilst there is interest at the current time in this case the overriding public interest lies in maintaining the exemption under section 31(1)(c) for the purposes set out in subsection (2)(b) and (c).