The former boss of BHS has accused the pension regulator of a “hostile and deliberate” act by launching an investigation just days after his takeover, a court has heard.
Dominic Chappell, who bought BHS for £1 from Sir Philip Green, said the investigation had weighed on the firm.
The Pensions Regulator alleges that Mr Chappell failed to provide information three times about the collapsed department store’s pension schemes.
Mr Chappell denies the charges.
BHS collapsed in April 2016 under Mr Chappell’s ownership, leading to the loss of 11,000 jobs and a £571m pensions deficit.
Giving evidence at Brighton Magistrates’ Court, the businessman said the regulator had taken an aggressive stance against BHS since he took over.
He was handed a section 72 notice – a request to provide information to the regulator – 16 days after he took over the struggling retailer in March 2015, the court heard.
Mr Chappell, a former bankrupt, said of the notice: “We found it an outrageous act that was served when we had given the pension regulator every courtesy.
“It was a hostile and deliberate act and it fundamentally affected our business.”
The notice was a “powerful document resting on the back of the company”, as it signalled an investigation into wrongdoing, he told the court.
Three separate section 72 notices, served in April and May 2016 and a third time in February 2017, form the basis of the charges against him.
Mr Chappell claims he was locked out of the BHS offices when it went into administration, which prevented him from accessing the relevant documents.
Sir Philip later agreed to shore up the BHS pension schemes with an extra £360m, but the regulator continues to investigate whether Mr Chappell should make a contribution as well.
Mr Chappell bought BHS in March 2015 through his business Retail Acquisitions (RAL).
He received £2.5m in payments from the company in his year of ownership.