Pensions Disputes


Our eight-strong pensions disputes team is here to help you anticipate and appropriately resolve pensions disputes in the most cost-effective way.

Part of the wider 46-lawyer pensions team, our pensions disputes specialists combine first-class technical expertise with commercial thinking and a rapid response to your issues.

What we do

We have substantial experience in the following:

  • High Court litigation involving employers, trustees and representative beneficiaries in which issues relevant to the benefits payable from, or the administration of, occupational pension schemes need to be resolved
  • applications to correct mistakes in formal documents relating to occupational pension schemes
  • Court-approved compromises
  • disputes between schemes, with The Pensions Regulator and with members (including executive pensions)
  • negligence claims brought by scheme employers and trustees against a range of pensions professionals (including actuaries, investment consultants and solicitors)
  • Pensions Ombudsman and PPF Ombudsman complaints

Prevention is better than cure

We will work proactively with you to identify issues that lead to complaints and the steps you can take to reduce them. For example, a client had received a number of ill health early retirement complaints, so we trained its whole inhouse administration team on the relevant rule requirements and the approach the Ombudsman would take. This approach led to a 75% fall in claims for the client, with none of the remaining Pensions Ombudsman claims being upheld.

Come along to one of our regular seminars designed to help you manage risk and spot warning signs.

We also run round-table events where groups of clients and industry professionals debate topical issues like governance and managing risk. Webinars, podcasts and legal updates are also available to keep you well informed of breaking pension issues, provide technical insights and practical tips.

How we can help

Making the complex accessible

Our experts will explain even the most technically complex issues in a way that's accessible to you and to the courts. It's an approach the members of a large occupational scheme valued when faced with an expedited application for summary judgment to amend the scheme's rules. Getting straight into the detail, we quickly brought together large volumes of witness and documentary evidence to protect our client's interests.

Supporting international clients

We advised the US parent company of a sponsoring employer on its UK pension scheme, which was facing the prospect of The Pensions Regulator exercising its moral hazard powers against it.

It was our understanding of this fast-evolving area of pensions law, our ability to sift through the evidence and to engage accountancy experts to advise on the flow of money in the corporate group that meant we were ultimately able to persuade The Pensions Regulator not to exercise its powers.

We also helped a global building supplies company successfully resist a very substantial claim from the trustees of one of its pension schemes for additional funding. Fielding a strong legal team and working effectively together to present the court arguments in the best light led us to securing the client's desired outcome.

Pension proceedings

We have acted for many employers and trustees in proceedings where the court is asked to decide issues which have arisen in relation to pension scheme rules.

For example, the meaning and effect of scheme provisions or ancillary documents such as announcements or booklets might be unclear, or a mistake might have been identified in the wording of the rules, leading to a rectification application. There might also be uncertainty as to whether the scheme's amendment power has been properly exercised.

In light of the ongoing IBM litigation, the Imperial duty owed by employers to members of a scheme has been brought into sharp focus, and we are involved in disputes between employers and trustees in relation to the content of the employer's duty. Issues in relation to RPI and CPI as the basis of pension increases are also coming increasingly to the fore.

Acting for representative beneficiaries

We have acted for scheme members as representative beneficiaries in many proceedings brought by employers and/or trustees of pension schemes. We take a sensible, pragmatic and proportionate approach to our role, while ensuring the advice we give to the representative beneficiary is clear and easy to understand.

Our significant experience in this area means that we can identify the key issues to focus on and limit the areas in dispute. This means that cases can be dealt with at proportionate cost and as efficiently as possible.

Pensions Regulator expertise

Expertise advising on disputes with The Pensions Regulator saw the team successfully defend a multinational manufacturer threatened with a financial support direction. The case followed the pre-pack sale of one of the company's subsidiaries and raised complex issues around the jurisdiction and powers of The Pensions Regulator.

IDRP and Pensions Ombudsman complaints

We have considerable experience of acting for trustees and employers in relation to claims brought by members or other beneficiaries and/or dependants under schemes' internal dispute resolution procedures and complaints to the Pensions Ombudsman. We actively monitor the Pensions Ombudsman's decisions. This means we can help you head off the risk of claims before they develop, or agree at the outset an appropriate strategy to contest the case.

Professional negligence litigation

Professional negligence litigation is on the increase, particularly in relation to ineffective rule amendments, indexation and revaluation (RPI/CPI), inappropriate investment strategies and so-called "successor adviser claims". Partner Ian Gordon has substantial knowledge and understanding of the underlying pension law issues as well as more than ten years' experience of handling such claims.

Leading reported cases we have been involved in:

  • Thales UK Limited v Thales Pension Trustees Limited (Chancery Division: 2017)
  • The Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester v Catherine Butterworth (Chancery Division: 2016)
  • Trustees of the Sea Containers 1983 Pension Scheme v Sedgwick Financial Services, Sedgwick Noble Lowndes and Mercer (Chancery Division: 2016)
  • Briggs v Gleeds (Chancery Division: 2014)
  • FSS Pension Trustees Limited v The Board of the Pension Protection Fund (Chancery Division: 2014)
  • In the Matter of Sea Containers Ltd (In liquidation) (Chancery Division: 2012)
  • Industrial Acoustics Company Ltd v Crowhurst (Chancery Division: 2012)
  • Capita ATL Pension Trustees Limited v Gellately (Chancery Division: 2011)
  • Independent Trustee Services Limited v Knell (Chancery Division: 2010)
  • CEMEX Marine UK Limited v MNOPF (Chancery Division: 2009)
  • Colorcon v Huckell (Chancery Division: 2009)
  • Foster Wheeler Limited v Hanley (Chancery Division: 2008)
  • Allan v Johnson Controls Automotive (UK) Limited (Court of Appeal: 2008)
  • Alitalia SpA v Rotunno (Chancery Division: 2008)
  • Smithson v Hamilton (Chancery Division: 2007)
  • Steria Limited v Hutchison (Court of Appeal: 2006)
  • Re: Phoenix Venture Holdings Limited (Chancery Division: 2005)
  • Primavera v Allied Dunbar Assurance plc (Court of Appeal: 2002)