Belfast Telegraph

Regulator urged to boost efforts to recover pensions cash from Sir Philip Green

MP Frank Field has urged The Pensions Regulator to speed up efforts to extract cash from Sir Philip Green to plug the yawning hole in BHS's pension fund , as administrators look set to pocket almost £5 million from the retailer's collapse.

The Labour veteran, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said the watchdog needed to tell the Government if there were legal barriers preventing a solution being found quickly to plug the scheme's £571 million deficit.

"The Pensions Regulator could be moving much quicker on this. If there are legal impediments they need to tell us," he told the Press Association.

In November, Pensions Regulator c hief executive Lesley Titcomb moved to assure members of the retailer's pension scheme the watchdog was "relentlessly" pursuing the best outcome.

The news comes as it was revealed co-administrator Duff & Phelps would charge around £4.03 million for the administration of BHS, a 15% rise on its previous estimate of £3.5 million.

Co-administrator FRP Advisory will charge fees of £800,000, meaning the total administration fees of BHS's sorry saga will be around £4.8 million.

Duff & Phelps said the complexity of the BHS case, including the decision to appoint concurrent administrators, had pushed up the cost.

"The costs of the demise of BHS continue to spiral as the pensioners wait for Sir Philip Green to sort the pension fund," Mr Field added.

"The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) are already left scrabbling for a few pence in the pound from what is left of the wreckage of BHS.

"Meanwhile Duff and Phelps, who were appointed by Sir Philip, have left with half a million more than they expected for doing substantially less of the administration than they expected."

Amid a slew of correspondence released by the Work and Pensions Committee, a letter from the PPF shone fresh light on the £35 million owed to Sir Philip's retail empire Arcadia by BHS.

It revealed the sum was transferred to Linklaters - acting for Arcadia - by Duff & Phelps, before being returned after FRP Advisory intervened.

Mr Field added: "The return of the £35 million paid to Arcadia by Duff & Phelps vindicates the PPF's decision to appoint administrators independent from Sir Philip.

"We are inquiring further into the circumstances of this transaction, which was not authorised by the co-administrator."

SHB Realisations Limited - formerly BHS Limited - was put into liquidation by joint administrators Duff & Phelps, with concurrent joint administrators FRP Advisory taking over as sole liquidators of the company.

Sir Philip had promised to "sort" the pension problem in front of furious MPs earlier last year.

He is thought to have offered £250 million to help plug the deficit, £100 million less than The Pensions Regulator has demanded.

Mr Field has called for The Pensions Regulator to be handed the power to impose "punitive fines" of as much as £1 billion on rogue employers.

The regulator has already slapped Sir Philip - and a number of parties - with warning notices, as it presses the billionaire retail tycoon for an acceptable cash offer for the BHS pension scheme.

It is now waiting for representations from those parties before deciding whether or not to take the issue further.

A spokesperson for The Pensions Regulator said: "We remain in discussion with Sir Philip's advisers.

"Any settlement offer we accept has to be robust enough to stand the test of time and mean that members and the PPF are not left in a worse position further down the road."

The department store's collapse in April last year has affected 11,000 jobs, 22,000 pensions, sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.