A UK magistrates’ court has fined Samuel Smith Brewery and its chairman, Humphrey Smith, nearly £28,000 ($36,747) for failing to hand over information to UK pensions watchdog The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
Smith was fined £8,000, while the brewery was levied a fine of £18,750. They were also ordered to pay £1,240 in costs and victim surcharges. It is the sixth criminal conviction attained by TPR against individuals or organizations for failing to comply with section 72 notices.
“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,” Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said in a release. “People who ignore our notices asking them to provide information should expect us to launch a criminal prosecution.”
Under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004, TPR has the power to issue a notice requiring companies or individuals to provide information and documents relevant to its statutory functions. Failure to provide the information without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offense that can result in an unlimited fine.
TPR said it requested information about Samuel Smith Old Brewery’s financial position following the submission of a 2015 valuation of some of the company’s final salary pension plans. The information was necessary to allow TPR to understand whether the pension plans were being adequately supported.
However, according to TPR, the information was not given by the deadline set in the regulator’s statutory notice, but was provided three months after the deadline expired, and only after criminal proceedings had been initiated.
Both Smith and the brewery pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates’ Court to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse. Smith was charged on the basis that he consented to or connived in the offense by the company, or caused it by his neglect.
District Judge Teresa Szagun said there was a need to stop individuals from taking an obstructive approach to requests by TPR for information, and during the sentencing referred to the “very terse tone” of the company’s refusal to provide information. She also said it was important that the public had confidence in a “robust process to investigate and protect” pension savers.