U.K. Lawmakers Set to Debate Philip Green’s Role in BHS Debacle

  • Full House to discuss pension crisis at failed retailer
  • Scrutiny broadens to owner of billionaire’s Topshop chain

U.K. lawmakers are turning up the heat on the embattled billionaire Philip Green, moving to discuss the travails of his retail empire before Parliament.

The House of Commons debate will give politicians an opportunity to air grievances over Green’s role in the collapse of BHS, which has led to as many as 11,000 job losses and threatens to crimp the retirement savings of 20,000 former workers.

Philip Green

Photographer: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

“This will be the first chance the whole House has had to pass its judgment on Sir Philip Green’s behavior to BHS workers and pensioners alike,” Frank Field, the opposition Labour Party lawmaker who heads Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee, said in a statement, adding that the Commons discussion was likely to take place toward the end of October.

Until Green reaches a settlement with the U.K.’s Pensions Regulator, he will remain “the unacceptable face of capitalism,” said Conservative party lawmaker Richard Fuller, who was part of the group that led a parliamentary committee’s initial inquiry into BHS’s collapse. “I am fed up with him posturing around. Maybe he’s searching for his moral compass.”

Pension Deficit

Last year the 64-year-old tycoon offloaded the struggling retail chain to Dominic Chappell, who lawmakers subsequently deemed an unsuitable owner, while leaving its pension deficit unresolved. The deficit swelled to 571 million pounds ($754 million) by March.

Green said in a statement last week that he had been working with the pensions regulator to try to reach a settlement related to the BHS pension and was seeking a satisfactory outcome as soon as possible. He also objected to Fuller’s characterization of him.

“Perhaps Mr. Fuller ought to go and educate himself about complex regulatory issues,” Green said in a statement. “This is not the same as walking down the street and using an ATM. Ill-informed comments like this are deeply unhelpful for everyone.”

Parliament is also widening the scope of its inquiry to include the pension deficit of Green’s remaining fashion empire, Arcadia Group, Field said in an interview. That gap rose 52 percent to 190 million pounds in its latest financial year.

“We have started asking for information from Green to understand what sources of funding exist to fund the pension scheme,” Field said. Field has requested a meeting with executives from Leonard Green & Partners LP, the investment manager that owns a 25 percent stake in Green’s Topshop chain.