The CEO of UK-based packaging company Discovery Flexibles, who was also the chair of trustees for the company’s pension, has been convicted of refusing to give information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR), which had launched an investigation into the plan after receiving a tip from a whistleblower.
TPR said Thomas Christopher Wrigley repeatedly refused to comply with the regulator’s requests for information in connection with an investigation into how the plan was being run. A whistleblower had told TPR that Wrigley was considering investing more than £1.2 million ($1.5 million) of the pension’s funds into Discovery Flexibles.
According to UK law, most occupational pension plans are not allowed to invest more than 5% of assets into their sponsoring employer or employer-related investments. They are also limited by type of investment they can make in their employer; for example, they cannot be in the form of loans to the company. TPR’s investigation sought to find out whether these restrictions had been, or were likely to have been, breached.
A letter was sent to Wrigley from TPR in January 2017 asking for documentation relating to the proposed investment, as well as related issues. However, TPR said he refused to provide the documentation despite repeated requests and warnings that he would be committing a criminal offense if he continued to refuse to comply.
TPR said that Wrigley not only refused to provide TRP with information but accused him of threatening one of the regulator’s case manager when he said, “If you cross me again, I will come after you, personally, with my legal team.”
According to TPR’s Determinations Panel, “there was, over a relatively short period, an evolution of Mr. Wrigley’s conduct, from the initiation of a proposal which, as a trustee, he should never have made or pursued, to an obdurate and aggressive attitude of non-cooperation with the regulator, all of which demonstrated that he was not a fit and proper person to be a trustee.”
TPR referred Wrigley’s refusal to provide information to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which is responsible for prosecutions in Scotland, where the alleged offenses occurred. After the COPFS launched a prosecution against him, Wrigley pleaded guilty at Dundee Sheriff Court to a charge of failing or refusing to provide information to TPR without good excuse and was fined £400 ($511).
Wrigley has also been banned from acting as a pension plan trustee, and TPR appointed an independent trustee to take over the company’s plan.
“Wrigley earned himself a criminal record by refusing to give us the information he was legally required to,” Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said in a release. “His behavior towards TPR staff doing their job was intolerable so I welcome the fact that the Determination Panel took this into consideration when it decided to prohibit him.”