The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is to prosecute Samuel Smith Old Brewery in Tadcaster for failing to provide financial information for an ongoing investigation into its pension schemes.
The North Yorkshire-based brewer had been approached on 12 January by the TPR for information on the funding position of its pension schemes within two weeks, but failed to comply with the notice.
Its chairman, Humphrey Smith, has been summoned to Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 15 May, where he and the company will face a charge of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents, without a reasonable excuse.
Under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004, TPR has the power to require pension schemes, employers and third parties to provide it with information and documents relevant to its functions. If the brewery is found guilty, it could face a fine of up to £5,000 in accordance with section 77 of the Pensions Act 2004.
The measures against the brewery follow a warning by the TPR in July last year that it will prosecute companies and individuals which fail to disclose financial information.
Similar examples of regulatory action based on section 72 include those against Ashley Wilson Solicitors LLP in 2015 and VerdePlanet director Patrick John McLarry in 2013.
TPR prosecuting employers and companies could become increasingly common; the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whitepaper on defined benefit (DB) pensions published in March suggests that the powers of TPR to take action against company directors who commit reckless action in relation to a pension scheme should be strengthened.
The Samuel Smith Brewery chain owns around 200 pubs and bed and breakfasts. The chain has been approached by portfolio institutional for a comment but has decided not to respond.