Eversheds has been fined £3,000 plus £3,127 costs on two counts of making late payments into its company pension scheme.
EIW Services (North East), the law firm's Newcastle-based employment services company, pleaded guilty to eight charges of late payment. The charges were brought by the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (Opra) at Newcastle-upon-Tyne magistrates court on Friday (24 September).
John Hayes, chairman of Opra, says: “A pension law firm has the least excuse. We need to make sure that its own people know what the law is.
“We felt a firm of lawyers who themselves advise on pensions have no reason not to be prosecuted.”
The company was fined £1,500 for two late payments in 1997 and was granted absolute discharge on six other charges. The firm had faced a maximum fine of £5,000 for each criminal charge.
The charges were brought after the company failed to pay employee contributions to the trustees of two pension schemes within the 19 day limit set out in the Pensions Act 1995 (The Lawyer, 5 July).
The pension scheme was previously run by Wilkinson Maughan which merged with Eversheds in 1997. However, since the merger, the scheme has been run by the firm's employment services company EIW Services.
According to a statement issued by the firm: “Eversheds is the first to acknowledge that non-compliance of this nature is inexcusable.”
It also states that none of the firm's specialist pension lawyers were involved in any of the administrative matters.
It adds: “In the judgment the following points were taken into account: an early guilty plea; full co-operation with Opra; all necessary steps had been taken to put right the administrative errors; and there was no loss to any of the pension funds.”