BHS, Monarch, Carrillion. You have to ask is the regulatory system working? These black holes don't just appear out of nowhere so it is hard to fathom where the communication failed. What about those now looming on the horizon? BT's deficit of £14bn or the USS deficit of £7.5bn. We know about those now...so what are the big cheeses doing about them?
Trustees have the power to demand that the Company sponsor addresses these issues and if they don't bring them to the attention of the regulator.
Directors know that addressing pension deficits are part of the boards responsibility. Why did no one pick this up? Equally shareholders rely on audited accounts to assess the viability of the company. This third party 'health check' supposedly totally objective also seems to be failing. Even though the processes are in place are people actually following them?
Clearly, its not working. After listening to Money Box at the weekend it was also pretty obvious that the average pensioner does not really understand what happens to the contribution they make to their scheme or what the PPF's role is. The whole pension situation is a mess.
Regulators, governments, accountants and trustees have been struggling with this dilemma since Robert Maxwell used his employees' pension fund as his personal bank account over 25 years ago. And yet in spite of leading actuaries, academic bodies, regulators and parliamentary committees wringing their hands these scandals affecting the lives of ordinary people are still happening in 2018.
The industry has been trying and failing since pension time began to tell people how their pension works. Sadly, I am not sure that many of those luminaries care about the individual member, as long as they tick the compliance boxes, the job is done.
'It's my pension' said one listener' how can they just take it away from me when I have worked hard and put money in it all my life?'
Trust in pensions is fading everyday and the recent massive corporate fails will do nothing to encourage the worker to save into a pension scheme.
The pension industry should take a leaf out of the consumer industry where complex technology is drilled down into a simple YouTube video review or 'quick start' guide. IKEA made a fortune out of doing just this. And they need to hurry up or they will be signing their own death warrants as there are a plethora of alternative, simpler and more attractive sources being launched every day.
I know I have waded through endless reasons why things can't be simplified: risk warnings, compliance, marketing permissions...there are hundreds of them and most are totally without foundation. But sadly it is far easier to carry on doing what everyone has been doing for years than to change.
Let 2018 please bring some new thinking to this deeply muddy and unattractive area.
That is the narrative — if not the reality — being related by politicians and trade unions, after Carillion’s pension trustee revealed the collapsed contractor refused requests for more funding because of cash flow “constraints”. Frank Field, chair of the parliamentary Work & Pensions committee, was quick to note: “The purported cash flow problems did, of course, not prevent them shelling out dividends.”