Green issued a statement Friday in response to comments in parliament over the past few weeks suggesting that he has been dragging out the process, and press reports accusing him of pressuring the pensions regulator into cutting him a favorable deal if he makes a voluntary financial contribution.
Over the summer, a U.K. parliamentary committee looked into the collapse of BHS, and the 571-million-pound, or $755-million, hole in its pension fund, which widened under Green’s 15-year ownership. There are a series of other investigations taking place regarding the sale and collapse of BHS and the gap in the fund.
On Friday, Green said he has been cooperating with the U.K. Pensions Regulator for the past 17-18 months, handing them more than 70,000 documents. “I stated at the (parliamentary) hearing that it was my intention to try to find a solution, which is a voluntary one, to the BHS pensions, and that is still my aim,” Green said.
“Since before the company was sold in March 2015, it was always our intention to find a plan for the pensioners that was better than the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) and that remains the case today.” The PPF is a statutory safety net for pensioners whose employers have become insolvent, and the payouts are less than they would have received if the employers were trading.
Green also hit back at press reports last month that accused him of pressuring the pensions regulator into dropping a separate investigation into the BHS pensions gap if he helps plug it with his own money.
“This is wholly untrue. I am not in control of the process. I am following the process which has been set down by the regulator. Pensions are extremely complex issues, especially when there are more than 20,000 members involved,” Green said.
During the parliamentary hearing, Green publicly apologized for the debacle, and he has repeatedly said he is sorting out the pension fund problems, although he has stressed he has no legal liability to do so. On Friday, he said sorry once again.
“I would like to apologize sincerely to all the BHS people involved in this sorry affair. Contrary to all the coverage, I have been working on this issue on a daily basis, and will continue to do so with my best efforts to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all involved as soon as possible,” he said.
The embattled tycoon began the year on a high with the launch of Ivy Park, a big athleisure collaboration with Beyoncé that is stocked at his flagship retailer Topshop and other major stores worldwide.
The mood, however, soon turned sour after BHS, which Green sold for a nominal price to a twice-bankrupt businessman with no retail experience, collapsed into administration with the loss of 11,000 jobs. Some 22,000 pensions are in question.
BHS was one of the U.K.’s biggest retail failures for a decade, and its collapse and ailing pension fund are being treated as ethical issues, rather than criminal ones. There have been no charges filed and no allegations of illegality.