MPs question TPR's role following USS whistleblower removal

MPs have asked what role The Pensions Regulator (TPR) plays in the involuntary removal of trustees after a Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) trustee and whistleblower was fired earlier this month.

On 11 October, Jane Hutton was removed from her role as non-executive director of the scheme’s trustee board after she flagged perceived efforts by the scheme to block her attempts to find out if its deficit was exaggerated to the regulator.

Subsequently, Works and Pensions Committee chair, Frank Field, wrote to TPR chief executive, Charles Counsell, asking him to clarify what powers and action is expected of the regulator in these circumstances.

Field asked in what circumstances TPR would become involved in the removal of a scheme trustee under the trustee deed and whether it was possible for a trustee to be reinstated by members if they were removed by other trustees.

He also questioned whether removed trustees remained liable for decisions made as a trustee if their removal was linked to disagreement with those decisions.

Finally, Field asked Counsell what kind of support USS members could receive from TPR if they are unhappy with the governance arrangements of their scheme and are seeking new ones.

Hutton had contacted TPR in March 2018 with her USS concerns, before, in May 2019, TPR said that it was investigating the claims.

However, Hutton lost her job earlier this month following an independent investigation which found that she had breached “her duties as a director under company law and contract”.

Field has previously criticised the regulator for the way it had dealt with Hutton’s concerns, due to its delayed response.

In the most recent letter, dated 16 October 2019, Field concluded: “You will also have seen the letter I have today received from Dr Sam March, UCU-elected representative on the USS Joint Negotiating Committee.

“Further to our correspondence earlier this year about TPR’s involvement with the USS scheme, I would be very grateful if you would comment on the concerns set out in Dr Marsh’s letter.”

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