Samuel Smith Brewery and its chairman Humphrey Smith have been ordered to pay nearly £28,000 after admitting failing to hand over information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
TPR 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 required to enable TPR to understand whether the pension schemes were being adequately supported.
The information was not provided by the deadline set in TPR’s statutory notice issued under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004. The information was provided three months after the deadline expired, and only after criminal proceedings had commenced.
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 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 15 May to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse, contrary to section 77(1) of 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.
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, TPR’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 co-operate 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.”
- TPR has the power under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 to issue a notice requiring the recipient to provide us with information and documents relevant to our statutory functions.
- Failure to provide such information, without a reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence which can result in an unlimited fine. Additionally, those involved can suffer serious reputational damage from being successfully prosecuted for non-compliance with the law.
- TPR is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of TPR’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).