Yorkshire-based Samuel Smith Old Brewery and its chairman have been ordered to pay £27,990 for failing to provide financial information pertinent to a pensions investigation conducted by The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
TPR issued a notice on 12 January 2018 to the brewery and its chairman, Humphrey Smith, to request financial information and relevant documents. This was to help TPR understand the funding position of some of the organisation’s final salary pension schemes, following a valuation document that was submitted by Samuel Smith Old Brewery in 2015.
TPR’s notice, issued under Section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004, required these details to be provided by 26 January 2018, so that it could discover whether the pension schemes were being adequately supported. The information was supplied three months after the deadline’s expiry, and after TPR had launched criminal proceedings.
Samuel Smith Old Brewery and Smith himself both pleaded guilty on 15 May 2018 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court, to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse and contrary to Section 77(1) of the Pensions Act 2004. Smith was charged on the basis that he consented to or connived in the offence by the organisation, or caused it by his neglect.
On Monday 30 July 2018, also at Brighton Magistrates’ Court, Smith was fined £8,000 and Samuel Smith Old Brewery was ordered to pay £18,750. The parties were also fined £1,240 in costs and victim surcharges.
Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, 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 cooperate 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.”
Under Section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004, TPR has the power to require pension schemes, employers and third parties to provide information and documents relevant to TPR’s functions. Failing to provide this information without reasonable excuse is a criminal offence. It can result in an unlimited fine, as well as potential action from associated professional bodies.
This is the sixth criminal conviction secured by TPR against individuals or organisations for failing to comply with Section 72 notices.
Samuel Smith Old Brewery was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.