However, the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) reduced the fine from £2,000 to the statutory minimum of £500 after finding that the statement, for the scheme’s 2016/17 year, did not satisfy the requirements of the law in one area (encouragement of members to express their views to trustees).
The judge dismissed the other two areas TPR had identified as non-compliant (trustee knowledge and understanding and core financial transactions).
He ruled that since the scheme was a master trust with a professional trustee and ran schemes for multiple employers, it was important that some penalty for the failure was “therefore appropriate”.
The Moore Stephens Master Trust fared better than fellow appellant EC2 Master Ltd, trustee of Autoenrolment.co.uk, which had a fine of £2,000 confirmed by the tribunal.
The judge agreed that EC2 Master was non-compliant in five areas. It had left out: the latest default statement of investment principles; the date of the last review of the default statement of investment principles; information about how the requirement for the majority of trustees and the chair to be non-affiliated were met; and details about how members were encouraged to share their views and how they were represented.
It had also failed to describe adequately how trustee knowledge and understanding were met during the scheme year.
TPR’s director for frontline regulation, Nicola Parish, welcomed the FTT’s findings, including the endorsement of its right to impose penalties on the two schemes.
She stressed that annual chair’s statements were essential in providing pensions savers with assurance that their scheme was being properly run and would deliver the promised retirement benefits.
“We are pleased that the judges in these cases agreed that under legislation, a mandatory penalty applies to chair’s statements which are not compliant,” she said.
She warned that TPR would not hesitate to defend other fines imposed on recalcitrant schemes in the future. “We continue to expect high standards of trustees and will take action when chair’s statements are not compliant with the law,” she added.
Moore Stephens has been approached for comment.