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Regulation

London Borough of Barnet hit with information supply fine

London Borough of Barnet Pension Fund, London became the first public pension fund to be fined by the U.K. Pensions Regulator, for failing to submit basic information.

In a news release Thursday, the Pensions Regulator said it had imposed a £1,000 ($1,300) fine against the borough, which is the administering authority.

Managers of public pension funds are required to provide the regulator with a document called a "scheme return," under the Pensions Act 2004. Trustees and pension fund managers are sent a scheme return notice at least once every three years; the documents give the regulator an understanding of the pension fund landscape as a whole. This "in turn feeds into identification of risks, education initiatives and policy formulation," said the regulator's website.

Information includes number of participants and participating employers, contact details and details about the pension fund board.

The regulator issued a scheme return notice to the administering council July 9, 2016, which requested the document be submitted by Aug. 12. The regulator's release said further communications from the regulator were not answered, and the matter was referred to its determinations panel Feb. 24. A penalty notice was issued to the borough on April 13. The fine was paid June 9.

"It is the legal responsibility of trustees and managers to submit a scheme return by the deadline," said Nicola Parish, TPR's executive director of frontline regulation. "This is one of the most basic regulatory requirements for trustees and managers, and it is vitally important that we have up-to-date information about schemes so we can carry out our role effectively. We are also concerned if it is not submitted, as this may signal further problems within the administration of the scheme. Good scheme governance is a key factor to achieving positive outcomes for members. The action we took in this case demonstrates our commitment to this."

A TPR case team is continuing to engage with local authority staff to discuss the £906 million plan's future governance and administration, added the release.

A Barnet Council spokesman said: "The council recognizes that this is totally unacceptable. Due to a specific resourcing issue, the 2016 Annual Scheme Return was not filed in time by our supplier. The fine has been paid by them and steps taken to ensure this will not reoccur."