TPR issues record fine to professional trustee firm

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has fined Link Pension Trustees Limited £103,750 for breaching multiple aspects of pension law.

Link Pension Trustees’ fine, which was the largest ever handed to trustees by TPR, was in relation to its failing on the McDonald's Franchisee Pension Scheme.

The scheme provides pensions for 32 franchisees of McDonald's, but it is independent from the fast food restaurant chain.

Link Pension Trustee was fined £73,750 for failing to obtain audited accounts for the scheme for four years, failing to provide statutory money purchase illusions to its members for two years and failing to report the law breaches to TPR.

In its decision, TPR’s independent determinations panel said: “The panel would have expected better of a corporate professional trustee.”

The same investigation found that the trustee of the master trust scheme had failed to have at least three trustees on the board, resulting in a further £30,000 fine.

The breaches in master trust policy were discovered through TPR’s engagement with schemes through its master trust authorisation regime, and has resulted in the trustee resolving the breached, paying the fine and triggering the scheme’s exit from the master trust market.

TPR executive director of frontline regulation, Nicola Parish, added: “This case highlights how working more closely with master trusts as part of authorisation and supervision will expose any areas where the law is being broken and enable TPR to take action.

“The good governance of pension schemes is closely linked to good outcomes for members, so running a scheme well is essential to ensure pension savers receive the retirement they deserve. We will take action if the long-term protection of savings is put at risk.”

It was the first time that TPR has used its enforcement powers for failure to provide members with statutory money purchase illusions, failure to report breaches of law to TPR and failure to have three trustees on a master trust.

In its ruling relating to the £73,750 fine, the determination panel said: “Enforcing the obligation to obtain audited scheme accounts is an important way of ensuring member benefits are protected, as it should ensure the assets and liabilities of the scheme are made clear on an annual basis.

“While the breaches may not have caused identifiable financial detriment to members, they deprived members of information and a level of protection regarding their pension pots.”

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