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Who Represents Who

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DLA Piper UK LLP provides ‘clear and pragmatic solutions to complex problems; what sets the team apart is its clear understanding of how important it is to get a real answer and not just a long technical answer’. The firm fields a number of ‘outstanding’ individuals, including Claire Bell, who is an ‘extremely knowledgeable partner’; Jeremy Harris, who is ‘very responsive, practical and above all realistic’; and Ben Miller, who heads the team and is advising on some of the UK’s largest occupational pension schemes. David Wright is now a consultant. Scheme advisory and documentation is a cornerstone of the practice, which acts for some of the largest pension schemes in the UK as well as providers of SSASs and SIPPs. It regularly advises on scheme mergers, reconstructions, scheme closures and wind ups. It also handles the pension aspects of national and cross-border company acquisitions and disposals, restructurings and outsourcings. In a recent highlight it advised the Trustee of the Royal Insurance Group Pensions Scheme on all aspects arising from the closure of the scheme through to its future accrual, which involved advising on the changes needed to the rules and on how best to communicate with the members of the scheme.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP fields a ‘highly specialised, personable and diligent team that is willing to and capable of working to tight timescales’, led by the ‘excellent and very accessibleEle Lovering. She is assisted by the ‘technically excellentJon Walters, and Charmian Johnson, who is described as a ‘true expert in pensions law’. Amanda Small is ‘very professional and excellent at tailoring her advice to ensure that the client understands it’, and Simon Daniel (both principal associates) ‘handles potentially difficult situations with sensitivity, which typically contributes to a collaborative outcome’. ‘Commercial and knowledgeable’ legal director Sarah Lown is also recommended. The team acts for clients including Kellogg’s and Electricity North West on a range of complex and high-value matters; recent highlights include advising DuPont on the closure of its £1bn UK scheme to future defined benefit accrual and the addition of a new defined contribution section. It is continuing to advise a leading water, hygiene and energy technology company on ongoing pension matters in relation to strategic pension projects, which has included advising the company on the closure of future accruals and the winding-up of its overseas pension plan (this was a cross-border scheme that was established in 2007).

The team at Pinsent Masons LLPcombines excellent technical pension knowledge with genuine litigation experience’. The ‘pragmatic and responsiveStephen Scholefield heads the team, which includes senior associate Hayley Goldstone, who is ‘tenacious and determined to get a good result for her clients’; the ‘extremely well-respectedPippa Read, who advises employers and trustees; senior associate Robert Tellwright, who is ‘very well thought of’; and associate Helen Connor. Howard Ridley specialises in large buy-ins and outs, scheme changes, corporate support work and various contentious matters in particular Pension Ombudsman complaints. Highlights included advising Balfour Beatty Pension Fund on a wide range of issues, including asset backed funding and security arrangements held via Scottish and English limited partnerships, investment matters including the appointment of a fiduciary manager in a multi-billion mandate, and procedures to simplify the day-to-day operation of the fund. Other clients include Royal Ordnance Pension Schemes and Baxi Group Pension Scheme.

Key figures at Squire Patton Boggs include the ‘technically excellent and sensibleDavid Griffiths, who acts for major corporate organisations and the trustees of their pension schemes, and Victoria Leigh whose strength lies on the contentious side and is ‘very diligent at keeping clients fully informed’. The other key contact is Elizabeth Graham, who has wide-ranging experience of all aspects of pension law. The practice’s expertise covers a range of issues, including corporate rescues, scheme closures and overseas pensions schemes. Highlights included advising Graphic Packaging UK on a pension scheme merger which led to a merged pension scheme in Bristol and the North with combined assets of £100m. In another matter it advised three local government scheme funds (Greater Manchester Pension Fund, West Yorkshire Pension Fund and Merseyside Pension Fund) on a collective investment pooling with a value of £35bn.

DWF has a ‘solutions-driven team’s that is rated for its ability to ‘accommodate challenging timescales while at the same time ensuring that the work it produces is never compromised’. The ‘calm and intelligent Tim Green is ‘hugely in demand and is blazing a trail in the North West’. Jane Lathwood ‘can handle anything with a cool professionalism that wins the delight of clients and the respect of the market’. The well-established practice has a particular strength in the retail sector and has an extensive institutional corporate client base as well as a large trustee advisory practice. It advised Morrisons on the implementation of an asset backed funding arrangement and assisted Burton’s Biscuits with the pension aspects of its disposal of its Cadbury’s licence. It also advised the administrator of Redcar Steel Works on the pension aspects of the closure of Redcar Steel Works.

Gateley Plc has an ‘extremely professional and highly business-orientated team with excellent communication skills’. The ‘friendly and practicalPatrick Kennedy is a ‘lateral thinker who finds innovative solutions’. Senior associate Suresh Bhattstays on top of the detail and remains calm and assured in meetings’. They make a ‘very strong team whose skill set balance each other’. Clients of the practice include the Trustees of the CH Johnson Pension Plan, Motor Industry Pension Plan, the Trustees of the USDAW Staff Superannuation Fund and Stanplan F.

Hill Dickinson LLP’s practice is led by the excellent Barry Gibb and includes recently promoted partner Paula Warnock. The ‘timely and responsive’ team has strength in advising on closing schemes to future accrual, scheme wind-ups and scheme restructurings. Highlights included advising Chester Zoo on its funding commitments to its final salary pension scheme and on its ability to renegotiate a funding agreement entered before the scheme was closed to accrual. In another significant matter it advised Carr’s Group on a proposal to apportion the liabilities of an existing employer to the principal employer under a flexible apportionment arrangement.

Brabners LLP’s recent recruitment of Ian Mylrea from Irwin Mitchell is a ‘game changer’, according to some. Mylrea is ‘developing his place in the local market through excellent client relationships; he is sensible and extremely well received by all sides of the negotiating table’. The team has particular strength in the sports industry. Philip Woolham has left the firm.

Irwin Mitchell has a full-service pension practice regularly advises on matters such as outsourcing, contentious matters for major corporates, privately owned businesses, their pension trustees and individuals. It also provides expert tax advice on corporate transactions. Andrew Ashley Taylor joined Brabners LLP in September 2017.

Paul Carney at Shoosmiths LLP is ‘very knowledgeable, approachable and competent’. He is well regarded for his ability to handle high-value matters on behalf of employers, trustees and public bodies. He has particular expertise in public service pension schemes. Other areas of expertise include advising on risk management, advising on scheme mergers and the closure of schemes to future accruals. He also regularly provides support to both companies and trustees with the pensions aspects of corporate transactions.

At Weightmans LLP, Mark Poulston advises clients in the private and public sectors on contentious and non-contentious matters. He has particular experience in the pension aspects of corporate transactions, as well as scheme redesign and terminations. In addition he regularly advises on life insurance matters. Jane Marshall is skilled at advising on matters that span employment and pension law, such as public sector outsourcing and pension scheme changes. Highlights included advising the Football Pools Limited on the provision of death in service benefits to employees.

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Legal Developments in North West for Pensions

  • Companies should plan now to minimise their pension protection levy

    The amount that pension schemes have to pay to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) for the year 2006/07 may have increased by as much as five times the previous year's levy. Employers who ultimately bear the cost of many pension schemes will need to make plans now to ensure the levy payable for the year 2008/09 is kept to a minimum.
    - Stephenson Harwood

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