In what is a surprise move to some (but thought long overdue by others), The Pensions Regulator has begun formal proceedings through the courts against Sir Philip Green and Dominic Chappell that could see them being forced into paying the £571 million BHS pension scheme deficit.
The Pensions Regulator has been carrying out an investigation into the complex situation that surround the case and has been the recipient of much press attention. The action has been undertaken because, according to Lesley Titcomb, the CEO of The Pensions Regulator, they were yet to receive a "sufficiently credible and comprehensive offer" to bail out the BHS pension scheme from Green or Chapel, despite their claims that they would do all they could to fix the situation. She went on to say:
"We have been clear in our public commitment to make significant progress by the end of 2016 and the issue of these notices meets that commitment. Our decision to launch enforcement action is an important milestone in our work to attain redress for the thousands of members of BHS schemes who have been placed in this position through no fault of their own."
"Issuing warning notices at this time reflects the outcome of our investigations and that we are yet to receive a sufficiently credible and comprehensive offer in respect of the BHS schemes. We continue to pursue the best deal for members of the BHS pension schemes. If parties wish to approach us with settlement offers, that course remains open to them."
Philip Green was quick to respond to the Pension Regulator's decision and provided the following statement:
"I have read the statement from The Pensions Regulator this evening and noted its contents. I have provided the regulator with what I believe to be a credible and substantial proposal, with evidence and bank confirmation of cash availability, which would prevent the scheme from entering the Pension Protection Fund. This is in order to achieve a better outcome for the BHS pensioners."
"I have also spoken to the chairman of the trustees who is supportive of the proposal on the basis that it provides members with better benefits than they would received from the PPF. I believe the above statement confirms the statement of intent that I made in regard to the BHS pensioners."
The move has been warmly welcomed by members of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee including Frank Field MP who has been very vocal on this and other pensions matters.
"His answer throughout our inquiry was always that he was going to "sort" the disastrous position he left the pension fund in when he sold off BHS to Dominic Chappell for £1. We are glad to see TPR is now calling his bluff and instigating enforcement proceedings. It seems clear Sir Philip would rather kick the can down the road and avoid responsibility than come up with any fair, sustainable settlement for BHS pensioners."