On 28 February 2017 the Pensions Regulator has agreed a settlement leading to the cessation of regulatory action against Sir Philip Green and associated companies Taveta Investments Ltd and Taveta Investments (No.2) Ltd.
TPR had opened its anti-avoidance investigation following the sale of BHS to Retail Acquisitions Ltd in March 2015, although it had been in correspondence with the trustees and employer for some years previously.
TPR issued Warning Notices for Contribution Notices and Financial Support Directions on 2 November 2016 to Sir Philip Green, his associated Taveta investment companies, Dominic Chappell and Mr Chappell’s company, Retail Acquisitions Ltd, which had acquired BHS (see article).
As a note to other employers, TPR’s section 89 report issued in June 2017 points out that while TPR considered various options of settlement leading up to the issue of the Warning Notices, it will nonetheless not be “distracted or deterred” from its investigations.
The settlement involves £343m placed in escrow to fund a new scheme with a further £20m to be separately held to cover expenses. It had been reported previously that prior to the issue of the Notices Sir Philip had offered £250m whereas TPR wanted £350m. BHS members now have the option to transfer to the new scheme, opt for a lump sum (if eligible) or remain in the current scheme which is expected to transfer to the PPF. This should enable benefits to be provided to members that transfer at a level at least as great as PPF benefits and in many cases higher.
Regulatory action is continuing against Dominic Chappell and Retail Acquisitions Ltd.
Further details of the background to the BHS case can be found here.
Argyll comment: This BHS case has been extraordinary in several aspects, not least of which was the fact that its events were played out very publicly as the various parties, including TPR, were scrutinised and criticised by two select committees. On the one hand the June 2017 section 89 report is a clear case study of TPR’s policies in approaching anti-avoidance cases and what it expects from settlement proposals. However perhaps taking on board suggestions of failings from the select committees, the report hints at future change. The Government’s consultation “Security and Sustainability in Defined Benefit Pension Schemes” (the ‘Green Paper’) was largely influenced by the BHS case and picks up some of the themes from it (eg use of Regulated Apportionment Arrangements).