Trustees of Dunnes pension sacked for 'failure to do job'
The trustees of the pension scheme for Dunnes Stores staff in Northern Ireland have been sacked by the UK's regulator following what it called a catalogue of governance failures.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) in the UK announced the unusual move yesterday, stating that the trustees of the Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Limited Management Pension Scheme had "failed to show they had the skill to do the job properly".
Dunnes Stores Bangor is the registered company for the retailer's UK operation, which has effectively been reduced to its 16 Northern Ireland stores.
The Pensions Regulator said its decision was taken by its determinations panel because it was concerned the trustees' failure to grasp their responsibilities was putting the benefits of 390 members of the scheme at risk.
TPR said that, as a result, it has appointed an independent trustee to oversee the scheme. It's understood to be the first time the regulator has used its power to replace trustees due to a lack of competence.
Nicola Parish, TPR's executive director of frontline regulation, said: "We will not stand by when trustee incompetence threatens the retirement outcomes of workplace pension savers.
"In this case, the trustees put member outcomes at risk and so we took action to ensure benefits are protected. The trustees have been replaced because they have consistently failed to show they had the skill to do the job properly."
Ms Parish added: "Trustees who are not committed to their duties should consider whether it's right they continue in their position of being responsible for governing a pension scheme."
TPR said Dunnes Stores' nominated trustees had failed to engage properly with its investigation and persistently failed to address a number of concerns despite assurances that they would.
The panel found, despite more than a decade of being responsible for running the scheme, the employer nominated trustees had failed to "familiarise themselves with the requirements of UK pensions legislation".
The trustees showed "that they do not have, or are not exercising, their knowledge and understanding for the proper administration of the scheme", which led to a series of governance errors with little attempt to rectify them.
TPR said the independent trustee of the pension scheme is now in the process of considering the future of the scheme as to the best way to protect member benefits.
The regulator assured members yesterday that they will be kept informed on the future of the scheme.
Dunnes Stores was contacted for comment, but one had not been received at the time of going to press.