The Pensions Regulator has sent out a clear message in the Johnsons Shoes case where an employer failed to comply with its legal obligations regarding workplace pensions:
This was clearly the right course of action for the regulator to take and will both encourage some employers to be compliant and discourage others to avoid compliance failures.
But here is a curiously anomalous situation: I can find no evidence that the company just fined £40k by the regulator has ever scammed thousands of victims out of millions of pounds’ worth of pensions and left them with crippling tax liabilities. Many of these victims have had heart attacks and strokes as a result of the stress of being scammed. The employer, Johnsons Shoes, sanctioned by tPR, has been in business for 25 years and it is possible that one or two customers might have experienced the odd blister if the hand-made shoes were too tight. But my search for skeletons, scams or scandals came up with nothing more serious than the fact that they can’t spell the word “paid” on their website.
A little birdie has tipped me the wink that LaLa has had a quiet word in TinkyWinky’s shell like and told him that now he has got a taste for a spot of regulating, he really ought to up his game and sanction some of the outright scammers (i.e. criminals). There is a touch of embarrassment now that a long-established family business has received such a high-profile and high-value fine, while the worst sanction that has ever been handed out to criminals is the odd flaccid waggle.
Tinky Winky’s first dilemma is how to catch the scammers. Shoe shops are easy because they don’t tend to fly away to exotic places like Gibraltar and Malta but stay neatly sandwiched between a travel agent and a book store. The Insolvency Service very helpfully named 18 of the scammers in the Capita Oak, Henley and Store First SIPP investment scams which cost over 1,000 victims over £100 million worth of pensions plus tax liabilities. And I am sure all these criminals will be relatively easy to find in their various magnificent country mansions.
Once caught, the next dilemma will be to work out how much to fine them. My suggestion would be to simply divide £100 million by 18 – interestingly that comes out to £5,555,555.55 each. On top of that, the scammers should be made to pay the victims’ tax liabilities.
Speed is now of the essence to avoid the embarrassment that it took the Pensions Regulator more than four years to ban 5G Futures trustees Williams and Huxley and that the only action ever taken against Stephen Ward was a “severe dressing gown”.
Tinky Winky has got to realise why there is the word “Regulator” in the Pensions Regulator – and if the shoe fits, he has got to wear it.
Another reason for the urgency of taking some long-overdue action against the criminals, is the part played in the financial ruin of so many thousands of victims by tPR itself. 14 Ark schemes, now in the hands of Dalriada Trustees, were registered by tPR; Capita Oak now in the hands of Dalriada Trustees, was registered by tPR; Westminster now in the hands of Dalriada Trustees, was registered by tPR (and tPR failed to spot that both Capita and Westminster shared the same non-existent sponsoring employer); London Quantum, now in the hands of Dalriada Trustees, was registered by tPR and its trustee was Stephen Ward who was behind Ark, Capita Oak and Westminster…….etc. etc.
The Pensions Regulator has warned employers not to ignore their automatic enrolment duties. It would be good to see the regulator’s duties clarified and restore some public confidence in the performance of this public body that is supposed to protect workplace pensions so that people can save safely for their retirement.