The Pensions Regulator (TPR) took over from the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (OPRA) with effect from 6 April 2005. The objectives of TPR are to:
- protect the benefits of members of work-based pension schemes;
- promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes;
- reduce the risk of situations arising which may lead to compensation being payable from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF)
- maximise employer compliance with employer duties (including the requirement to automatically enrol eligible employees into a qualifying pension provision with a minimum contribution) and with certain employment safeguards.
There is a duty on trustees, managers, administrators, employers and professional advisers to report breaches of law to TPR in writing as soon as reasonably practical. TPR can carry out inspections of premises and ask anyone to furnish information and documentation. Refusal to assist is an offence, as is providing false or misleading information.
TPR can prohibit a person from being a trustee of a pension scheme if that person is in serious or persistent breach of duties, TPR can suspend a trustee if, for example, they are involved in proceedings for an offence involving dishonesty or deception or are the subject of insolvency proceedings. TPR can also appoint a trustee for a scheme if this is necessary to ensure the proper running of the scheme. It can fine any individual up to £5,000, or a company up to £50,000, for a breach of the law. If necessary, it can wind up a scheme to protect its members.
TPR can get a court injunction to prevent any misuse of the assets of an occupational pensions scheme, and can also go to court for an order for restitution of assets for certain breaches of the law. It can require production of any documents from anyone connected with a scheme and appoint an inspector to investigate and question anyone involved with it.
TPR is financed by levies on pension schemes. It aims to be a much more proactive regulator than its predecessor OPRA. It may report a life office or IFA to the FCA if they give misinformation to trustees of a pension scheme or demonstrate a lack of relevant knowledge.
Occupational Pensions Registry
TPR must maintain a register of occupational pension schemes and personal pensions for employees, plus a register of prohibited trustees. The Occupational Pensions Registry is a register of all occupational and personal pension schemes with two or more active members and all stakeholder schemes.
The trustees of each scheme have to register each scheme and pay an annual levy to fund the running costs of the registry. The registry records all details of the scheme which are regularly updated. The object is to enable people who leave service with pension rights to trace their scheme, which can be difficult if they left years ago and the scheme has been terminated, merged or the employer has gone out of business.
Appeals against decisions of TPR can be made to the Pensions Regulator Tribunal.