A court has told a solicitor and the firm where he is a partner to hand over more than £16,000 in fines and costs to The Pensions Regulator for failing to turn over documents in an investigation.
The first criminal conviction secured by TPR comes after it pursued Ashley Wilson Solicitors LLP and its managing partner Anthony Wilson for nearly nine months for paperwork.
Neither Wilson nor his staff has been accused of regulatory breaches as TPR asked for “documents related to a property linked to an individual who was involved in a TPR pension scam investigation”.
Wilson’s firm said that the documents were stored at a separate site so it faced difficulties getting hold of them. Wilson soon found the documents, but did not disclose them to TPR despite an assurance he would do so.
TPR visited Ashley Wilson Solicitors’ Knightsbridge office with a search warrant in March 2016 to retrieve the documents.
“TPR decided that the failure to hand over the documents was so serious that it merited the criminal prosecution of both Mr Wilson and his company,” the regulator says in a statement today.
Wilson and his firm both plead guilty at Brighton Magistrates’ Court yesterday. Refusing to provide documents required under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 without a reasonable excuse is an offence under section 77 of the Act.
The judge ordered fines and costs from both Wilson and the firm.
Wilson will pay a £4,000 fine, £7,500 costs and a £120 victim surcharge. Ashley Wilson Solicitors will pay a £2,700 fine, £2,500 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
TPR executive director of frontline regulation Nicola Parish says: “Our staff received a series of woeful excuses rather than the information they had requested. This was a case of the company refusing to comply with the law.
“Legal action could have been avoided if Mr Wilson or someone else at the firm had simply handed over the documents, as they should have done, because the information had already been retrieved from storage.
“As the court recognised, information notices are a key enforcement tool for TPR. We will not hesitate to prosecute those who prevent us gathering the vital data we need for our investigations. Refusing to comply with a legal request from The Pensions Regulator will not be tolerated.”