UK - Schemes reported for making late payments have almost halved since regulators urged actuaries and auditors to focus on more serious issues.
The Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority’s eighth annual report reveals that payment issues have dropped 46% to 145,900 last year.
By contrast, OPRA has taken greater action stepping in – often appointing an independent trustee – at schemes with major funding difficulties or where there are serious concerns over their management.
OPRA says the changes reflect provisions in the Pensions Bill for “the new kind of regulator” to focus on breaches of practice that are of “material significance”.
OPRA said that some of the most serious cases involved underfunded schemes at companies close to liquidation where directors were attempting to take generous early retirement pensions which would have left diminished funds for other employees.
In other cases OPRA appointed trustees at schemes that it felt were being run incompetently, in particular final salary schemes without actuaries and schemes which had “no clue” how to undertake a winding-up process.
In all, the regulator claims to have saved pension scheme assets of £53m through the appointment of its independent trustees.
It also claims victory in greatly curbing the activities of pension liberators who have illegally persuaded scheme members under the age of 50 to transfer their pensions to them in return for cash.
OPRA also claimed that its decisions to appoint trustees – particularly at firms that had gone into liquidation – had secured benefits totalling over £23.8m for scheme members.
Chairman Harriet Maunsell said: “OPRA has moved towards a more risk-based method of regulation, focusing on breaches that are of ‘material significance’.
“We are responding to the real risks facing members of pension schemes.
“We believe that through our work in the coming year we will be able to offer a sound basis from which the pensions regulator can grow.”
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