Getting tough on pension offences

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has stressed its commitment to taking a tough line on those who flout the law while supporting employers struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the Pensions Age magazine’s spring conference, Fiona Frobisher, the regulator’s head of policy, said: “This year we won’t be talking about quicker, clearer, tougher.

“We’ll be talking about being tough on those who flout the law, and supportive of those who are struggling.”

The regulator has also stressed that it “won’t hesitate” to use new criminal sanction powers, gained from the Pensions Act 2021, “when it is the right thing to do”.

Among other reforms, the act introduces new criminal offences for improper conduct in relation to defined benefit pension schemes, with penalties including an unlimited fine and/or up to seven years’ imprisonment.

It introduces two new criminal offences, where action or inaction results in either: 1) the avoidance of an employer debt to a defined benefit (DB) scheme, or 2) a material reduction to the chance of members getting their DB benefits in full.

In a blog post, David Faris, TPR executive director of regulatory policy, analysis and advice, said: “Clear, quick, tough. That’s the regulator we have worked hard to become, and the new powers awarded to us under the Pension Schemes Act 2021 support that approach as we all strive to make pensions safer, better and greener.

“Now, as we roll out our new corporate strategy, we will ensure savers continue to sit at the heart of all we do.

“As such, we won’t hesitate to use our powers to protect savers through enforcement when it is the right thing to do, which will punish wrongdoers and deter others.

“What we will not do is overstretch the intent and purpose behind the powers. We will always take an appropriate and proportionate approach.”

He added: “We are not in the business of making the lives of competent and responsible trustees, advisers or employers, or anyone operating in this space, harder.

“We have the interests of savers at heart and we remain focused on making workplace pensions work.”

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