BHS buyer convicted over pension information failures
Dominic Chappell, the former racing driver turned businessman who bought BHS for £1, has been convicted of failing to hand over information required by the Pensions Regulator (TPR) as part of its investigation into the sale and then collapse of the high street fashion retailer
12 Jan 2018
This included information about the purchase of BHS by Chappell’s investment vehicle, Retail Acquisitions Ltd (RAL) and the participants involved, as well as transactions involving BHS and RAL after the sale had been completed.
TPR said Chappell also failed to provide information about a possible unauthorised disclosure of restricted material. The regulator made the claims using powers under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004. Failure to provide such information, without a reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence which can result in an unlimited fine.
At Brighton Magistrates’ Court Chappell was found guilty of three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents, without a reasonable excuse. Chappell had denied the charges.
District Judge William Ashworth adjourned the case until 19 January, when Chappell will be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court.
Chappell bought BHS from former owner billionaire Sir Philip Green for £1 in March 2015. Shortly afterwards TPR asked for hundreds of documents in relation to the £571m pension blackhole at the company.
BHS subsequently collapsed a year later with the loss of some 164 stores and around 11,000 jobs. Green agreed to pay £363m towards the pension deficit, but TPR has continued action to protect the pensions of the scheme’s 19,000 members.
The case is the fifth criminal conviction secured by TPR against individuals or organisations for failing to comply with section 72 notices.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: ‘Dominic Chappell failed to provide us with information we had requested in connection with our investigation into the sale and ultimate collapse of BHS, despite numerous requests.
‘The power to demand specific information is a key investigative tool in our work to protect people’s pensions. This conviction shows that the courts recognise its importance and that anyone who fails to co-operate with our information notices risks getting a criminal record.’
Chappell is planning to appeal the decision.
TPR’s separate anti-avoidance action against Chappell in respect of the BHS pension schemes is continuing.
Report by Pat Sweet