Construction Confederation bosses could be liable for pensions black hole
Directors of the defunct Construction Confederation may be held personally liable for the £20.8m black hole in the body’s pension fund after it emerged that the behaviour of individual officers would be scrutinised.
The deficit, which could mean that around 500 staff could lose up to 70% of their pensions, was revealed in October.
Building reported that former officers who could be held accountable include Stephen Ratcliffe, the former chief executive of the Confederation and Sir Martin Laing, the former chair of John Laing.
Previous officers also include Paul Shepherd, former chair of Shepherd Construction and James Wates, deputy chair of Wates and the newly appointed chair of the CITB Construction Skills Board.
Zolfo Cooper, which is acting as liquidator for the Confederation after it was wound up in December, initially said it would investigate former member bodies but Building has reported that the behaviour of individual officers would also be looked at.
A source close to the investigation said: “The liquidator is investigating the officers because it wants to know why the Construction Confederation was not giving back funds to meet its debts. Everyone with a possible liability will be looked at. Officers should have done what they could to get the money from the member organisations.
“If they failed to fulfil their obligations by not trying their hardest to make sure member organisations plugged their debts, they could be held accountable.”
The source added that the Pensions Regulator could take separate action to hold officers liable if evidence emerges that they misled trustees over the extent of the debts.
In a separate story, Building reported that directors and staff at firms implicated in the Office of Fair Trading cover-pricing investigation could be held personally liable for fines.
The news follows a landmark court ruling which went in favour of William Morrisons, the owner of supermarket Safeway, which began legal action against 11 former employees after Safeway was found guilty of price fixing.
Nicholas Heaton, partner at Lovells, said: “It’ll be something companies will seriously consider. These are not straightforward claims to bring but the fact that the OFT has given details of the infringements and who was involved might encourage construction firms to launch claims.”