The British Home Stores (BHS) pension trustees did not flag up concerns to the regulator about last year's sale to Retail Acquisitions, according to Lesley Titcomb.
The Pensions Regulator's (TPR) chief executive (pictured) made the comments while giving evidence yesterday to the Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) as part of its inquiry into the collapsed retailer.
TPR only learned about last year's acquisition of BHS by Retail Acquisitions from Arcadia Group for £1 through the media and was not informed by the trustees in advance, she said.
"I am not aware they [the trustees] did come to us with any concerns. When we launched the anti-avoidance case in March 2015 that was on the basis of our own initiative based on what the reports were saying."
BHS was not one of the schemes with which TPR "engaged in proactively" as it "did not hit the threshold" for such an approach Titcomb added.
It transpired that it took 17 months for TPR to receive a scheme valuation plan from trustees at BHS in 2013. Trustees have a statutory 15 month period from the effective date within which to agree valuations with the scheme employer.
In this case the valuation was submitted in September 2013 i.e. over two months after that deadline.
On the recovery plan Titcomb said: "It does vary hugely how long it takes to do a recovery plan. Sometimes it takes weeks. Some of them are quite simple and small while this would have been far more complex."
She said the regulator receives around 1400-1500 recovery plans each year and has to make risk-based choices for any plan it approves.
However, MP Richard Fuller challenged TPR and said: "For good or bad you don't sound like much of a regulator. It took you 17 months to get a recovery plan. That plan had a 23-year recovery period which sounds like twice the average. [BHS] had a £200m deficit [which was] growing. You are not much of a regulator are you?"
In response to the hearing Hargreaves Lansdown head of retirement policy Tom McPhail said: "The revelations that the BHS scheme had a 23-year deficit reduction programme and that the regulator didn't know about the sale of BHS until announced in the papers raises uncomfortable questions about the adequacy of the protection of pension scheme members generally."
He warned the UK's occupational scheme provision is "creaking at the seams".
"While some schemes are extremely well run, there are also many small, inefficient, cottage industry pension schemes. Pension investors, whether in final salary schemes or money purchase arrangements, have a right to expect their retirement savings to be protected by professional managers operating to high regulatory standards."
PP has looked at whether the regulator and trustees could have done anything differently with BHS.
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