The country’s peak pensions regulator body has confirmed that the court has the power to decide if Sir Philip Green’s assets, including his superyacht, should be seized in order to help plug the BHS pension black hole.
Pensions Regulator chief executive Lesley Titcomb said that although they were “relentlessly” working for the best outcome for former BHS employees affected by the £571 million pensions deficit, it was up to a court to decide whether it would seize Green’s assets to pay for it.
“If we are talking about a contribution notice that creates a normal legally enforceable debt to the scheme, it would be then the scheme trustees of the Pension Protection Fund, with our full support in any way, shape or form that we could offer, would seek to recover that debt through the courts and the court would determine how that would be achieved,” Titcomb said.
At a committee meeting with MPs today, she said the watchdog’s determinations panel would decide if it is appropriate to issue a contribution notice on Green, who owned BHS for 15 years until he sold it for £1 in March 2015 to multiple bankrupt Dominic Chappell.
This notice would convert BHS’ pension deficit into debt, which means the court can then decide if Green’s assets should be seized to help pay it off.
However, Titcombe highlighted that the Pensions Regulator did not have the power to freeze assets.
The news comes after MPs questioned whether Green’s luxury yacht – reportedly worth £100 million and dubbed the “The BHS Destroyer” – and other assets could seized to fill the BHS pension black hole.
Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said it was now almost six months since Green pledged to “sort” the deficit and his “ostentatious displays of wealth”.
Green has been widely criticised for his role in BHS’ collapse, especially after it was revealed he was cruising the Mediterranean on his yacht during summer while pensioners were left facing an uncertain future.
The Pensions Regulator is also “monitoring” the pension scheme for another arm of Green’s retail empire, the Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge.