The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has exercised its production order power under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 for the very first time as part of a fraud investigation.
Its latest compliance and enforcement bulletin revealed in the second quarter it accessed bank statements and financial information that would otherwise have been confidential, in a first for the watchdog.
The production orders, which must be obtained via the court, required a bank to hand over evidentially admissible statements and other details of the accounts linked to the trustees of a pension scheme as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The regulator has applied to the court for production orders in cases where it is probing fraud and money laundering offences, and has obtained five so far.
It also revealed it revoked as many as 74 penalties it had issued over non-compliant chair's statements during the last quarter. TPR said it revoked the fines due to a "time delay on our part in explaining to schemes why their statement was not compliant with the regulations".
It comes after chief executive Lesley Titcomb said earlier this year it would revoke some fines and publish updated guidance to be clearer about its expectations of statements, in response to feedback from trustees.
If a trustee or other recipient disagrees with the issuing of a Statutory Notice issued under the 2015 Regulations - such as failing to prepare a chair's statement or exceeding the charge cap - they can apply for a review. TPR has revoked, substituted or varied a total of 80 since April 2014 following reviews, according to the bulletin.
As previously reported, the regulator used another two powers for the first time in the second quarter. It issued its first fine under s10 of the Pensions Act 1995 against a trustee for failing to complete two scheme valuations, and prosecuted a recruitment company for illegally opting out workers in a pension scheme under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
In line with its ‘clearer, quicker, tougher' approach, TPR used many of its powers more often than in the first quarter of the year.
For auto-enrolment, its enforcement powers were used 43,700 times between April and June compared to 35,862 in the previous quarter, while the number of fixed penalty notices increased by 9.5% to 12,220. The regulator issued a quarterly record of 27,219 compliance notices, and carried 142 inspections compared to 112 in the previous quarter
The watchdog used its powers on 25 occasions to take action against trustees for failing to complete a scheme return on time during the second quarter, and appointed 162 trustees to run schemes to protect members' benefits.
Executive director of frontline regulation Nicola Parish said:
"Our actions over the quarter demonstrate how we are continuing to develop as an organisation to be clearer, quicker and tougher.
"We're using powers for the first time and working closely with other organisations to better protect members of pension schemes."
However, the regulator pointed out that it is not always necessary to use its powers, citing a recent DB funding case where it "gained a positive result" by working with an employer and its scheme trustees to agree on a funding proposal rather than resorting to using its powers under the Pensions Act 2004.
In the first of a five-part series of articles for PP, pensions minister Guy Opperman sets out how impending legislation will improve pensions for members.
Tim Shepherd and Beth Brown look at the legal implications of working from home and how pension professionals can mitigate the risks.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has substantially increased the usage of its powers against trustees – posting a sharp rise in the use of formal information gathering powers and High Court production orders during the three months to the end of September....
The Pension Schemes Bill has completed its third reading, crossing its latest hurdle in the House of Commons.
An amendment to the Pensions Schemes Bill which would have seen people given a pre-booked Pension Wise appointment ahead of accessing their retirement savings has been defeated.