COMMONS

BHS pension trustees and sale advisors questioned by Committees

24 May 2016

The Work and Pensions and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees take evidence as part of their respective inquiries into the BHS pensions, sale and acquisition.

Witnesses

Wednesday 25 May 2016, Wilson Room, Portcullis House

At 9.00am

Panel 1: BHS Current Pension Fund Trustees

  • Chris Martin (Chair)
  • Mike Lymath
  • Phil Kitchen
  • Jason Hyde

Panel 2: BHS Pension Fund former Trustees

  • Margaret Downes (former Chair)
  • Siobhan Forey
  • Richard de Dombal

Panel 3: Advisers to Retail Acquisitions Ltd.

  • David Roberts, Partner, Olswang
  • Paul Martin, Partner, Grant Thornton
  • Andrew Frangos, Chief Executive, Cornhill Capital

Questions raised by Pension Regulator's interaction with BHS

The Pension Regulator’s "worrying" timeline of their interaction with BHS, published late yesterday, raises a number of questions for the trustees tomorrow morning, as well as other key players - including more for TPR themselves.

  • Why did the Regulator seemingly have no contact with BHS between expressing concerns about the 2012 valuation in March 2011 and being told it would be late in June 2013?
  • Why was so little progress made on scrutinising that valuation - and its 23 year recovery plan - between its receipt in September 2013 and the Regulator hearing about Project Thor in June 2014?
  • The Regulator repeatedly asked the trustees to request further information on Project Thor from Arcadia and their advisers Deloitte between July and September 2014. Why was this not forthcoming?
  • Why was the Regulator not at the table for meetings on Thor and, with the exception of the meeting on 4 March 2015, the sale?
  • What happened at the meeting between Sir Philip Green, the Regulator, the trustees and advisers on 4 March 2015? And why was the Regulator still "working on" a follow up letter when they heard that BHS had been sold?

Further questions for sales advisers

Further questions that the Committees have to the advisors on all aspects of the sale include:

  • What checks did advisors carry out on Retail Acquisitions Ltd?
  • Did Arcadia act as responsible sellers of BHS?
  • Did Retail Acquisitions Ltd have credible plans for BHS?
  • Who was looking after the interests of pension scheme members?

Chairs' comments

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: 

"Project Thor looks like a great missed opportunity for BHS and its pensioners. We have only begun exploring the circumstances of its failure but the evidence paints a worrying picture of the last 18 months of Sir Philip Green’s tenure at BHS.

It seems that on offer then was a bigger pension than they now might get from the PPF. The build-up to the sale to Dominic Chappell is murkier still. We will be asking key players to further enlighten us."

Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee said:

"We heard evidence on Monday that Sir Philip Green & Arcadia knew, via Goldman Sachs, of Dominic Chappell’s bankruptcies and his lack of retail experience. We heard that they would have been aware of this 4 months before the deal was finally done and yet they went ahead and sold BHS to Chappell’s RAL consortium.

We now want to hear from RAL's advisers what steps they took to establish that Dominic Chappell had a credible business plan to turn around BHS."

Future meetings

On 8 June, the Committees will question BHS management, the RAL Board, and Dominic Chappell. On 15 June, the Committees will question Sir Philip Green.

The Committees are holding separate inquiries relating to BHS but these evidence sessions will be held jointly.

Further information

Image: PA

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