Field blasts regulator for ‘sniffling’ around Carillion

Written by Natalie Tuck

Work and Pensions Committee chair Frank Field has again criticised The Pensions Regulator for “sniffling” around Carillion, “clearly to no effect” as it collapsed under the watch of the regulator.

The regulator is under intense scrutiny from the Work and Pensions Committee in light of Carillion’s collapse and its £2bn pension scheme deficit. Field has had numerous communications with TPR chief executive Lesley Titcomb, and has today published further correspondence with the chief executive, ahead of the regulator’s appearance in front of the committee on 22 February.

“The Pensions Regulator has been sniffing around the company since 2008, clearly to no effect. While The Pensions Regulator was busy sniffing around, the company collapsed with a near billion pound pension deficit,” Field said

“There is not a hope now of The Pensions Regulator salvaging anything that could put a dent in that deficit. We look forward to The Pensions Regulator explaining what difference it would have made for pensioners if it had sat on its hands this whole time.”

In the letter to Titcomb, Field has asked Titcomb when the regulator’s investigation into Carillion was launched, what triggered it, and if it is the first such investigation into Carillion. He also asked her to provide a list of meetings TPR has had with the Carillion Pension Trustee dating back to the 2008 scheme valuations, and asked for notes from these meetings.

In addition, Field has asked for minutes from meetings held with the company, creditors and the trustee over the proposed deferral agreement in September and October 2017. Field also asked what discussions TPR had with relevant parties over a proposed restructuring attempt in December 2017.

The Committee has also written to trustee chair Robin Ellison with regards to trustee meetings with the regulator and the company.

Also commenting, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy chair of the business Rachel Reeves said: “Our joint inquiry is exposing a tale of regulators who monitor rather than act, who are adept at closing the gate after the horse has bolted. Our session with the Financial Reporting Council highlighted a regulator failing to act when alarm bells are ringing and unable to intervene before the company fails.

"The Pensions Regulator needs to set out exactly what action it took to attempt to safeguard the thousands of Carillion pensions and why it failed to ensure Carillion directors filled the gaping pension deficit as they paid out dividends to shareholders.”

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