'No evidence' of wrongdoing in House of Fraser insolvency - TPR

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) found “no evidence” of wrongdoing in House of Fraser's insolvency, following its investigation.

It noted that there was no indication that the timing of the insolvency was deliberately manipulated, or that it happened too soon or was mismanaged.

The regulator also concluded that there were no acts or transactions prior to the retailers administration that warranted further investigation.

It will therefore not conduct any further investigations or pursue the use of its financial support direction or contribution notice powers.

The retailer's pension scheme, which had two sections, had a combined membership of 10,256 and an estimated combined buyout deficit of £265.7m, as of 31 December 2016.

House of Fraser filed a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) on 6 June 2018 after falling into insolvency.

The pension scheme was not required to make any compromises under the CVA.

However, the CVA eventually fell through after proposed shareholder investment did not materialise.

The firm was then purchased by Sport Direct owner, Mike Ashley, for £90m in August 2018, under a 'pre-pack' arrangement.

Its pension scheme then entered Pension Protection Fund assessment.

TPR opened its investigation to establish whether there were any activities in respect of the pre-pack and the events and circumstances preceding it that would cause it to use its anti-avoidance powers.

However, the regulator concluded: “We found no evidence to conclude that the timing of the insolvency was deliberately manipulated, or that the insolvency occurred too soon or was mismanaged.

“We also concluded that there were no acts or transactions pre-dating the administration that warranted further investigation and are satisfied that, on the basis of the evidence we reviewed, further investigations would not be appropriate.

“In addition, we concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support further investigation to pursue an FSD.”

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