Samuel Smith Brewery and its chairman have been fined nearly £28,000 after admitting failing to hand over information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
TPR required information about Samuel Smith Old Brewery's financial position following the submission of the 2015 valuation of some of the company's final salary pension schemes to enable TPR to understand whether the pension schemes were being adequately supported.
The information was not provided until three months after the deadline expired, and only after criminal proceedings had commenced.
At Brighton Magistrates' Court today (30 July), chairman Humphrey Smith was fined £8,000 and Samuel Smith Old Brewery £18,750. They were also ordered to pay £1,240 in costs and victim surcharges.
Both pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates' Court on 15 May to neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse. Humphrey Smith was charged on the basis that he consented to or connived in the offence by the company or caused it by his neglect.
Referring to the "very terse tone" of the company's refusal to provide information as she delivered the sentencing, District Judge Teresa Szagun said there was a need to stop individuals from taking an obstructive approach to requests by TPR for information.
She said it was important that the public had confidence in a "robust process to investigate and protect" pension savers.
Nicola Parish, TPR's executive director of frontline regulation, said: "Mr Smith and the brewery could have avoided this fine and a criminal conviction by simply complying with our notice requiring the information to be provided.
"Our ability to request information is a necessary part of our regulatory toolkit and we take it very seriously when parties do not co-operate with us. People who ignore our notices asking them to provide information should expect us to launch a criminal prosecution.
"As Mr Smith has discovered, becoming compliant with our requests after a court summons has been served will not halt criminal proceedings."