A Hampshire-based charity’s chief executive has been told to pay more than £6,500 by a magistrates’ court for failing to provide to the Pensions Regulator information linked to an investigation into unusual scheme investments.
Patrick McLarry, chief executive of Yateley Industries for the Disabled Limited, was fined £2,500 and told to pay £4,000 costs and a victim surcharge of £120 at a hearing at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday after being pursued for bank documents for 18 months.
According to the Pensions Regulator, McLarry, who used to be a trustee of the charity’s pension fund, was issued with an information notice for bank statements relating to a French bank account in the name of McLarry and his wife.
The regulator said that McLarry had refused to supply the documents requested because doing so would be a breach of French privacy law. He also claimed the statements were protected by legal privilege and subsequently that he was refusing to provide them on the basis that they might incriminate him.
In response, the regulator prosecuted McLarry under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 – the second time in its history that it has done this for failing to provide documents when requested.
At the court, the regulator used an expert in French law to argue that McLarry should have complied with the information notice to provide the documents.
Nicola Parish, executive director for front-line regulation at the Pensions Regulator, said: "Patrick McLarry refused to cooperate with Pensions Regulator staff and gave a number of excuses that were rejected by the court. This was a clear case of him deliberately refusing to comply with the law.
"Legal action could have been avoided if Mr McLarry had simply complied with the legal notice.
"This is another example of how we will use our powers to take action against individuals who hamper our investigations into the management of pension schemes."
But a response from Roy Grimwood, chair of Yateley Industries for the Disabled, said: "We very much feel that Mr McLarry has been made a scapegoat in this matter. Patrick McLarry’s work and dedication to Yateley Industries over the past 18 years, which has kept this charity and its disabled people in a position of strength when many others failed, is a matter of record. Mr McLarry has been awarded an MBE for his services with people with disabilities.
"Mr McLarry, along with me and the rest of the trustees here, has fought the Pensions Regulator for nearly three years on this matter, and we view this disgraceful action as no more than a vengeful and spiteful response."
Grimwood said the charity had complained about the regulator to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and to Frank Field MP.