The Pensions Regulator has issued a statement to the regulated community, Alert to risks in the economic downturn, to explain how they can work in partnership through the economic downturn. The Alert refers specifically to dishonesty and fraud. The regulator warns that whilst fraud and dishonesty are very rare there is still a risk.
"Good governance of pension schemes is more, not less, important during the downturn. The most extreme risk of unacceptable behaviour is dishonesty and fraud. Whilst fraud and dishonesty are very rare the risk is nonetheless real. For example scheme members may be targeted to access their pension assets through trust-busting or pension liberation activities. Those who attempt to engage in such behaviour are at risk of both civil and criminal investigation. Where criminal behaviour occurs the regulator will take action in concert with the relevant authorities to secure assets for members and to sanction against wrong-doing. Reassuringly, in such cases where fraud has occurred and the sponsoring employer has become insolvent or is unable to continue to support the pension scheme as a going concern, member benefits will be protected by the Fraud Compensation Fund."
The Pensions Regulator is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK, with objectives to protect members' benefits, promote good administration and reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund. Their approach is risk-based focusing on education and enablement, with enforcement where appropriate. They have the ability to:
- collect information about pension schemes; through scheme returns, under the scheme funding regime and as well as statutory (including whistleblowing) reports;
- issue notices requiring actions to tackle non-compliance, prohibit trustees who are judged not fit and proper to carry out their duties or appoint independent trustees;
- direct pension schemes as to how to calculate their liabilities and the contributions required;
- issue a contribution notice where there is a deliberate attempt to avoid liabilities, or a financial support direction where the employer is a service company or insufficiently resourced.
If you would like further information or any help, please contact Fraud expert Sarah Wallace (Regulation & Investigations Group) or Pensions expert Anne Taylor (Pensions).