The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is calling on the industry to help finalise guidance on how it will use new criminal powers under the Pension Schemes Act 2021.
The act introduces two new criminal offences: the offence of avoidance of employer debt and the offence of conduct risking accrued scheme benefits. The offences are not yet in force but are expected to be by Autumn 2021.
David Fairs, TPR’s executive director of regulatory policy, said: “The intent of the new criminal offences is not to change commercial norms or accepted standards of corporate behaviour. Rather it is to tackle the more serious examples of intentional or reckless conduct that puts members’ savings at risk; and strengthen the deterrent and punishment for that behaviour. Our policy is consistent with this intent.”
TPR has published a draft policy and consultation on how it plans to use the criminal powers given to it under the Pension Schemes Act 2021. The consultation will close on April 22 2020 and any changes will be made with the final policy published later this year.
The two offences outlined in the draft policy will be committed if someone acts, or fails to act, with the relevant intention and does not have a reasonable explanation for their behaviour. The onus will be on the prosecution to prove that the accused did not have a reasonable excuse.
TPR said that in the key area of what amounts to a reasonable excuse, the policy sets out factors it thinks should be significant in answering that question.
The consultation is the first in a series the watchdog will publish as it takes forward the government’s plans outlined in the Pension Schemes Act 2021.