Dominic Chappell, the former owner of the now-defunct retail chain BHS (British Home Stores), has been ordered to pay more than £87,000 for failing to provide information to British pension watchdog The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
Chappell failed to give information that TPR, using powers under section 72 of the Pensions Act of 2004, had required him to supply as part of its investigation into the sale and collapse of BHS. This included information about the purchase of BHS by Retail Acquisitions Limited and the participants involved, as well as transactions involving BHS and Retail Acquisitions Limited after the sale had been completed.
Chappell was the director and majority shareholder of Retail Acquisitions Limited, which bought BHS from Sir Philip Green in 2015 for £1. He also failed to provide TPR with information about a possible unauthorized disclosure of restricted material.
Section 72 gives TPR the authority to require recipients to provide information and documents relevant to the regulator’s statutory functions. Failure to provide such information, without a reasonable excuse, is a criminal offense that can result in an unlimited fine.
District Judge Gary Lucie of Barkingside Magistrates’ Court ordered Chappell to pay a £50,000 fine, £37,000 in costs, and a £170 victim surcharge. Chappell had pleaded not guilty to three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse, but was convicted of all the charges after a trial in January.
“The court must send a message to those in senior positions that refusal to answer questions under section 72 will not be tolerated,” Lucie said in his ruling. “The law is there for a purpose and it must be enforced. There is a complete lack of remorse on Mr. Chappell’s part.”
The case is the fifth criminal conviction secured by TPR against individuals or organizations for failing to comply with section 72 notices.
“We prosecuted Dominic Chappell because despite numerous requests he failed to provide us with information we required in connection with our investigation into the sale and ultimate collapse of BHS,” said Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, in a release. “Choosing not to comply with our section 72 notices has now left him with a criminal record and a bill for more than £87,000, both of which he could have avoided if he had simply done what was required of him.”
TPR has a separate anti-avoidance action against Chappell in respect of the BHS pension schemes, which is still ongoing.