Lesley Titcomb, Chief Executive of The Pensions Regulator, was in Yorkshire today speaking at an exclusive round table lunch hosted by the Addleshaw Goddard pensions team in their Leeds office for a number of their key clients.
This event, attended by some key Yorkshire businesses and professional trustees, was very timely as it follows the publication today of the Pensions White Paper on defined benefit pension plans and the Prime Minister's announcement over the weekend that the White Paper will include extensions to the Pensions Regulator's powers, including the proposed introduction of a new criminal offence of neglecting pensions responsibilities.
In the wake of the pension issues arising out of the collapse of a number of high profile businesses, most notably BHS and Carillion, the regulatory climate in relation to defined benefit pension schemes has been under the political spotlight for some time. These latest announcements come after the Pensions Regulator has previously confirmed it intends to be “bolder, tougher and quicker” to use the powers it already has. Businesses with a defined benefit scheme in their group therefore need to pay closer attention than ever as to the impact any dividend payments or corporate activity they may be proposing to take could have on the scheme and their plans for ensuring appropriate funding is in place for any scheme deficit.
Rachel Rawnsley, national head of pensions at Addleshaw Goddard said:
"Following the collapse of BHS in 2016 with a £571 million deficit in its pot for 19,000 pension holders, DBs have been in the political spotlight and the Government is clearly wanting to send out a strong message that Directors who in the future wilfully or recklessly put pension schemes at risk are going to find it very difficult to shirk their responsibilities.
"With the range of new powers TPR will have at its disposal, including jail sentences, it has never been more important for companies sponsoring defined benefit pension schemes and trustee boards managing them to be alive to the shifting legal and regulatory regime, to enable them to appropriately manage the risks posed by these schemes effectively and for directors to understand their legal duties and risks in terms of balance the interests of shareholders and scheme members.
We were therefore very pleased to welcome Lesley to our offices and to be able to give some of our local clients an exclusive audience with her to gain real insight into the Regulator's plans and priorities as we move forward."
Lesley Titcomb said:
“The rapid pace of change across the pensions landscape continues and so I welcome the opportunity to meet some of our regulated community to explain how we are adapting to the challenges we face and the strengthened role we have to ensure pension savers remain protected, and employers understand their duties.”
Addleshaw Goddard national pension practice works with both trustees and sponsoring employers. It has been the long standing top tier pensions practice in Yorkshire and advises in connection with over  defined benefit schemes including a number of multi-billion pound schemes.