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Carillion: MPs reject Adams' plea over pension remark

MPs that investigated Carillion have rejected a plea by the firm’s former finance boss to alter their report over alleged comments he made about its pension schemes. 

Richard Adam, who served as Carillion’s finance director from 2007 to 2016, wrote to the committee last week asking to amend a quote attributed to him, which claimed he regarded payments to the contractor’s pension schemes to be a “waste of money”.

Carillion’s pension scheme has been in the spotlight, with the Pension Protection Fund estimating the scheme’s aggregated deficit to be around £800m following the contractor’s collapse in January, according to the MPs’ report.

The joint report by the BEIS and work and pensions committees revealed that Carillion’s pension trustees pushed for more contributions from the company in the years prior to its collapse. 

However, Mr Adam “argued the company could not afford such high contributions”, according to the report.

A note by the pension trustees’ lawyer said that Robin Ellison, chair of the trustees, understood that “Richard Adams considered funding pension schemes to be a ‘waste of money’”.

However, in his letter to the committee last week, Mr Adam said: “As I was not present at this meeting I was unable to challenge Mr Ellison’s assertion.”

He added: “There is no objective evidence that supports the contention that I have ever held or expressed these views.”

In response, the committee said: “The committees cannot of course assert that Mr Adam said those precise words in 2013, but have accepted the characterisation in the contemporaneous note by the trustees’ lawyer.

“That attitude was reflected again in his evidence in parliament on 6 February 2018, and further supported by analysis by the scheme’s covenant assessors, Gazelle Finance.”

Carillion’s former chairman Philip Green also voiced criticism of the report, but admitted there were lessons.

“While much of the commentary […] fails to understand and accurately reflect the true, more complex picture of events, the committee has highlighted lessons which can be learned by the board, the government and the wider industry,” he said in a statement. 

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