- Regulators may have started investigating BHS pension shortly after its sale to Retail Acquisitions for £1
- Parliamentary inquiry begins today with session investigating deficit
- MP Frank Field is understood to have added pensions lawyer Robin Ellison and accountancy professor Prem Sikka to the panel
MPs are expected to hear today that the BHS pensions probe began “soon after” Sir Philip Green sold the business to Retail Acquisitions.
Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell has claimed that the UK’s Pensions Regulator started investigating the department store’s pension scheme a year before it went into administration.
The Retail Acquisitions boss said BHS had been served with an order from the Pensions Regulator to hand over documents “very soon after we bought the business”, the Financial Times reports.
He added: “We have been completely compliant and have helped both the regulator and the PPF [Pension Protection Fund] with their enquiries.”
BHS, which belonged to Green from 2000 until March 2015, collapsed last month leaving 11,000 jobs and 164 stores at risk. Its pension debts are being absorbed into the PPF.
The Pensions Regulator confirmed it was investigating the BHS scheme last month and has been considering using its anti-avoidance powers to ensure the business’ former owners contribute as much as £300m to the £571m pension deficit. It did not reveal when it had first started investigating the BHS scheme.
The parliamentary inquiry into Sir Philip Green’s management of BHS, its sale to Retail Acquisitions and its subsequent administration is expected to be heated following last week’s acrimonious exchanges between the Group owner and Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee.
Green demanded Field’s resignation from the committee, describing him as “clearly prejudiced” after the MP suggested he should be stripped of his knighthood if he did not stump up the money for the pension deficit. The Labour politician said parliament would not be “bullied”.
As previously reported, Marks & Spencer’s former chairman Lord Myners has been appointed to advise the Work and Pensions Committee.
Sir David Norgrove, former chairman of M&S’s pension fund, has been appointed special adviser.
Field has also added pensions lawyer Robin Ellison and accountancy professor Prem Sikka to the panel, according to Sky News.
The parliamentary inquiries will start today with a session investigating the BHS pension fund deficit, taking evidence from PPF chief executive Alan Rubenstein, and the Pensions Regulator chief executive Lesley Titcomb.
Adding to the BHS furore are claims that Chappell, who was previously reported as being twice bankrupt, has in fact been declared bankrupt on three occasions – in 2009, 2005 and also in 1992.
According to The Daily Mail, the former racing driver Chappell also stripped the struggling chain of more than £100m in his 13 months at the company and the firm’s management battled to block his ‘inappropriate’ spending.