Thomas Christopher Wrigley, chief executive officer and major shareholder at flexible printed packaging manufacturer Discovery Flexibles Limited, has been convicted of refusing to give information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
TPR launched an investigation when it was contacted by a whistle-blower who alleged that Wrigley, who was also chair of trustees for the Dundee-based organisation’s pension scheme, Danapak Flexibles Retirement Benefits Scheme, was considering investing £1.2 million of funds in the sponsoring employer.
As there are restrictions on the proportion of an occupational pension scheme’s funds that trustees may invest in the sponsoring employer, this could potentially constitute a breach of the Pensions Act 1995 and the Occupational Pension Schemes (Investment) Regulations 2005.
TPR wrote to Wrigley in January 2017 to request documentation relating to the proposed investment. Wrigley refused to provide the information, despite warnings that non-compliance amounted to a criminal offence.
When pressed for a response, Wrigley is reported to have threatened to take legal action against the case manager involved.
The case was referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), the Scottish equivalent to the Crown Prosecution Service. The COPFS launched a prosecution, and Wrigley pleaded guilty at Dundee Sherriff Court to a charge of failing or refusing to provide information to TPR without good excuse, for which he was fined £400. The maximum sentence available for this offence in the Scottish courts is £5,000.
In December 2017, TPR’s Determinations Panel issued a standard procedure determination notice, stating that Wrigley was prohibited from acting as a pension scheme trustee under Section 3 of the Pensions Act 1995. It also appointed Pi Consulting as an independent trustee to Discovery Flexibles Limited’s pension scheme.
The decision to ban Wrigley from acting as a trustee was based on concerns regarding his inability to manage the conflict of interest arising from his being both chairman of the pension scheme trustees and chief executive officer of the sponsoring employer. In addition, the Determinations Panel stated that his inappropriate and non-cooperative behaviour during the investigation showed that he was not a fit and proper choice as a trustee.
Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, said: “Wrigley earned himself a criminal record by refusing to give us the information he was legally required to. His behaviour towards TPR staff doing their job was intolerable, so I welcome the fact that the Determination Panel took this into consideration when it decided to prohibit him.
“Complying with [TPR’s] powers is not optional, if we ask you for information under Section 72, you must provide it. If you fail to give us information we’ve asked for, you should prepare to be prosecuted and convicted.”
Discovery Flexibles Limited was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.