The chair of a committee probing the collapse of BHS has asked the regulator whether it can seize Sir Philip Green’s assets, which include his multimillion pound yachts, to plug a pensions shortfall.
In a letter to Lesley Titcomb, chief executive of The Pensions Regulator, MP Frank Field asked if the regulator could acquire “assets other than cash” from “a person or company from which payment is being sought”.
After the letter was published, Mr Field said: “There is now nothing beyond limits as we understand it. Of course [Sir Philip’s] yacht could be targeted.” A spokesperson for Sir Philip declined to comment.
Mr Field also asked the Pensions Regulator whether it could use its powers against individuals who are resident overseas or a company registered offshore. Lady Green, Sir Philip’s wife who is resident in Monaco, is the controlling partner of Taveta, the family investment company, which owns the Arcadia retail group.
Ms Titcomb will appear before the Work and Pensions Committee on Wednesday to answer questions on how her regulatory powers “can and should be used” to avoid another BHS saga.
This month, the regulator threatened legal action against Sir Philip as it sought to fill the BHS pension deficit of £571m, issuing warning notices to him and companies controlled by his wife.
Separately, the regulator confirmed on Tuesday that it had used its powers to probe more deeply into Sir Philip’s retail empire by demanding information on the pension scheme of Arcadia Group, which owns retail brands including Topshop.
In another letter published by a parliamentary committee, Ms Titcomb said that notices had been issued to unnamed parties, requiring them to provide information on the funding position of the Arcadia pension plan.
In the letter, she said that the regulator had “regularly engaged” with Arcadia Group and its pension scheme trustees over the past few years on a “range of issues” including the 2012 sale of 25 per cent stake of Topshop/Topman to Leonard Green and Partners.
The regulator revealed that more recently it had asked Arcadia Group and pension trustees to engage in discussions ahead of the scheme’s forthcoming triennial valuation.
“We continue to monitor the Arcadia schemes on an ongoing basis,” Ms Titcomb said in the letter.
Meanwhile, the administrator to BHS has blasted the pension lifeboat fund for saying that it should begin liquidating the company later this week.
In a progress report seen by the Financial Times, and earlier reported by Sky News, administrators Duff & Phelps said that returns to creditors would be reduced if the process were rushed.
The report, which is due to be published this week, revealed that non-preferential creditors could expect to receive a return of just 2p to 8p in every £1.
Malcolm Weir, head of restructuring and insolvency at the Pension Protection Fund, said: ‘We are intent on securing the best possible recovery on behalf of the pension schemes from the insolvent company.
“Given that the company has not traded since August, we believe a liquidator will be able to progress all remaining issues at least as quickly as the current administrators, including the remaining leases and the ongoing investigatory work. This will expedite the investigations and reduce costs.”
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