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U.K. recruiting firm, execs, fined over effort to opt workers out of retirement plan

Workchain Ltd., its directors and senior staff were ordered to pay more than 280,000 ($359,389) after pleading guilty to following a plan to illegally opt workers out of a retirement plan, said a spokesman for The Pensions Regulator, which regulates work-based retirement funds in the U.K.

Workchain owners and directors Phil Tong and Adam Hinkley encouraged five senior executives at the Derby, England-based recruiting firm to get workers out of the scheme so the company could avoid making pension payments on their behalf, the spokesman said.

Those five executives worked together to opt temporary workers out of the National Employment Savings Trust. They called NEST pretending to be workers in order to obtain account ID numbers; then logged onto NEST's online system and opted the temp workers out of the retirement scheme, a TPR news release said.

NEST became suspicious about the number of calls from Workchain staff, and notified TPR. The company, directors and five senior staff all pleaded guilty to computer misuse offenses.

Judge Nirmal Shant in Derby Crown Court said Friday: "This amounted to a deliberate subversion of the automatic enrollment process. It was a deliberate attack on the integrity of the electronic systems of NEST," according to TPR's release.

Ms. Shant ordered Workchain to pay a 200,000 fine and 60,930 costs. Messrs. Tong and Hinkley were each given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years and were ordered to complete 200 hours of community service and to pay 11,250 costs, the TPR release said.

The other five executives also received suspended prison sentences and/or community service orders, and were ordered to pay 500 to 1,500.