Given their complexity, it’s no surprise that pensions generate a wide variety of disputes – on matters ranging from the handling of an alleged error in calculating an individual’s pension entitlement to the appropriate response to intervention by the Pensions Regulator in the context of a multi-million-pound corporate transaction.
Many of these matters can be resolved without recourse to litigation; indeed, our pensions litigators dedicate a lot of energy to helping parties avoid the time and expense of formal proceedings. This requires an ability to anticipate moves by "the other side", experience in devising commercial strategies for handling issues and knowing when and how to deploy pensions Counsel to best advantage. Whether or not disputes ultimately go to court (or before a tribunal), it is important that clients have the highest-quality litigation and pensions expertise on their side from the outset.
We are regularly involved in advising on pensions disputes at all levels, from dealing with the Pensions Ombudsman for trustees or employers defending themselves against a complaint by a single member, to testing a point of law in the appeal courts that may affect thousands of scheme members. We have been involved in a number of leading Court of Appeal cases concerning difficult points of pensions law, including:
- the correct approach to the interpretation of pension documents;
- the funding of multi-employer schemes under the post-2004 regime;
- the definition of “money purchase scheme”; and
- the scope for the settlement of pensions disputes - we advised in the leading case concerning this (IMG v German, 2010).
In addition to this work, we have advised on a host of high-value pensions issues involving both contentious and “friendly” litigation, such as:
- the proposed exercise of the Pensions Regulator’s scheme funding powers;
- claims between schemes relating to transfers;
- a challenge to the validity of a PPF-related pensions restructuring;
- claims relating to unfunded pension promises in insolvency situations;
- TUPE-based pensions disputes concerning the operation of redundancy and dismissal rules; and
- disputes arising from the interpretation and operation of special early retirement promises.
With the goal of minimising costs for our clients always at the forefront of our approach, pensions disputes are typically handled by an appropriate team of one or more specialist litigators with relevant experience and a lawyer from our highly-regarded mainstream pensions team to help identify and manage the key technical and practical aspects.