The Pensions Regulator’s experiences increase in casework

The past year saw an increase in the The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) casework, with more than 30 anti-avoidance cases being investigated at the end of March 2010.

TPR’s annual report and accounts also outline a year of thematic campaigns to educate the pensions community, which focused on the risks affecting defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) schemes, and raising standards of governance and administration of trust-based schemes.

David Norgrove, chair of the TPR, said: “The past two years have seen huge pressures on private pensions.

“Trustees and employers have had to work more closely than ever to secure member benefits whilst allowing employers to play their part in the recovery. We have emphasised the flexibility in the funding regime – whilst making it clear that funding targets must be set prudently.

“A recent review of our risk-based approach, by the Better Regulation Executive and National Audit Office, confirmed that the regulator has adopted an effective and proportionate approach. It’s vital we continue to build on this during the coming year.”

Bill Galvin, acting chief executive of the TPR, added: “2010-11 looks likely to be our busiest year since our inception in 2005. We are involved in an unprecedented number of difficult and complex cases and are seeing a further increase in potential avoidance activity.

“Vital work continues on designing and building a robust compliance regime to ensure employers meet their new duties from 2012. We are also focusing on risks faced by DC schemes which will be the vehicle into which most new members will be auto-enrolled, and will be setting out our thinking in more detail later in the year.

“With an increasing workload and in an environment of constrained public expenditure, we will continue to target our resources at the areas of greatest risk to members, and to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund.”

The report also provides information on TPR’s work over the course of 2009-2010, which included:

• A strong focus on raising standards of recordkeeping ahead of employers’ new duties to automatically enrol staff and announcing it would be recommending specific targets for standards of common data and carrying out scheme audits.

• Free workshops on DB funding, internal controls and record-keeping, attended by over 1,500 industry representatives.

• In order to improve communication at retirement, TPR encouraged trustees to follow good practice by reviewing documentation provided to members, including raising awareness of the open market option.

• New modules relating to buy-outs and buy-ins on the trustee toolkit, which has over 35,000 registered users.

• Powers to suspend trustees to more than 100 DC schemes were used, safeguarding over £30m of scheme assets.

• Regulatory teams considered over 2,500 cases during the period. Of these, more than 2,000 involved the scrutiny of recovery plans for DB schemes.

• The TPR also refreshed the design and content of its website, tailoring it to be user-friendly for employers, individuals, pension professionals and trustees and to improve the effectiveness of communications with these stakeholders.

Read more articles on pensions