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The ‘excellent’ team at Pinsent Masons LLPlistens to clients’ requirements and demonstrates in-depth knowledge’ while ‘not being afraid of tackling contentious issues head-on’. The practice ‘provides pragmatic advice’ to large global corporations, individuals, public authorities, insurers and financial institutions. In conjunction with the firm’s pensions litigators, ‘most experienced, very calm and confident’ practice head Ian Gordon, who is ‘always willing to take a stance when confronting an issue’, advised the trustees of the Scottish Solicitors Staff Pension Fund on a Court of Session action to recover outstanding contributions from a participating employer. The highly regarded Ruth Tobias, who is ‘very easy to work with’, assisted the trustees of the Forth Ports Group Pension Scheme with benefit changes that took effect in 2016. The ‘pragmatic’ Jae Fassam advised the trustee of Plumbers & Mechanical Services (UK) Industry Pension Scheme on the protection of members’ interests and represented the client in meetings with scheme employers.

The ‘first-class and pragmatic’ team at Shepherd and Wedderburn is ‘very client focused and demonstrates high levels of knowledge’. The team frequently acts for pension trustees but also has a strong corporate client base, with particular expertise in the financial services, energy and education sectors. ‘Very knowledgable’ co-head Louisa Knox advised the trustees of the Standard Life Staff Pension Scheme on a range of pension law matters, including the implementation of the closure of the scheme’s final salary section to future accruals and the introduction of a new defined contribution section for future benefit provision. Highly regarded co-head Andrew Holehouse assisted the trustees of the AG Barr Pension and Life Assurance Scheme with a pension risk transfer deal with Canada Life to cover over 50% of the scheme’s total pensioner liabilities. As another highlight, Knox led advice to manufacturing company Danaher on all UK pension issues and assisted five of the company’s business units on the concurrent closure of their final salary pension schemes to future accrual. She also assisted the trustee of the Scottish Amicable Staff Pension Scheme with governance matters and with issues arising from pension tax changes effective from April 2016. Edwin Mustard is another key member of the team.

Burness Paull LLP’s ‘commercially aware’ team ‘provides fantastically prudent and pragmatic advice’ and has substantial expertise advising on the pension aspects of M&A transactions, private equity investments and refinancing matters. Practice head Sarah Phillips advised media company STV on the mechanism required to close one of its defined benefit pension schemes, and assisted First Scotland East with TUPE matters while also providing the client with advice on pension provisions of an asset transfer agreement following the company’s sale of certain bus route operations. In another highlight, the team advised the trustees of the Church of Scotland’s three defined benefit pension schemes on member complaints and the scheme’s internal dispute resolution process. Other recent work includes advising the trustees of the CHC Scotia Pension Scheme on the impact of bankruptcy proceedings, and assisting the trustee of the Aegon UK Staff Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme with mitigation options to offset the effect of selling parts of Aegon’s business, and on securing money purchase benefits outside of the pension scheme. ‘Thorough all-round star’ Margaret Meehan was elevated to the partnership in February 2017.

Commended for its wide-ranging experience and ‘very good industry knowledge’, DWF advises employers, trustees, advisors and pension product providers on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious pension law matters. The team’s scope ranges from advising on pension aspects of M&A and restructuring matters to assistance with cross-border pension schemes, funding issues and with de-risking defined benefit pension schemes. Team head June Crombie advised a client on pension scheme restructuring matters, and assisted another client with pension liability matters. Colin Greig is also recommended. Iain Talman retired.

MacRoberts LLP has particular expertise in public sector pension matters. ‘Knowledgable’ team head Martyn Shaw advised the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Society on the restructuring of its pension arrangements, and acted for the trustees of the Babtie Group Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme in a number of Court of Session proceedings against former scheme administrators and legal advisers, which pertain to the equalisation of normal pension dates. Acting for the same group of trustees, senior associate and ‘rising starJames Keith, who is praised as having ‘very good attention to detail’, advised the clients on the implications of a proposal by the scheme’s sponsoring employer to cease the ongoing defined benefit pension provision to the scheme. Other work included assisting the Johnston Press Pension Plan trustees with the funding of the plan’s defined benefit pension liabilities, and advising the Edinburgh Airport Pension Plan trustee on the company’s proposal to close the plan to future accrual. The Scottish Borders Council Pension Fund is another client.

Brodies LLP’s ‘extremely helpful’ team ‘provides a timely service and commercial advice’ on a wide range of pension matters, including transactional pension law support, and is particularly known for its public sector pension funds expertise. ‘Experienced and knowledgable’ team head Juliet Bayne, who is praised for her ‘excellent client-management skills and hands-on approach’, advised the trustee of the British Polythene Pension Scheme on a proposed cash and share offer by the packing business RPC, and advised AES Ballylumford on options for mitigating the potential impact of a National Insurance cost increase. Other recent work includes assisting the Howden Pension Plan trustees with the pension aspects of a proposed reorganisation of the employer’s group, and advising the trustees of the Metals and Mainetti Defined Benefit Pension Scheme on issues pertaining to the equalisation of benefits. The firm’s client roster also includes Lothian Pension Fund and Menzies Pension Fund.

CMS is regularly called on to advise on matters at the intersection of pension and corporate law, where the team often works in conjunction with the firm’s corporate practice. Practice head Alistair Hill assisted Standard Life with pension law aspects following the client’s acquisition and integration of AXA’s Elevate fund platform business. As well as its financial services expertise, the team’s client base also includes energy, life sciences and education-sector players. Hill advised Stena Line on the establishment of a new contracted-out pension scheme for use as a possible merger vehicle for the merger of five large occupational pension schemes. He also assisted David Brown Systems with pension aspects of its cross-border merger with Santasalo, which involved transferring pension scheme trustees and the establishment of a new defined benefit pension scheme. Other clients include the University of Glasgow, SSE, Royal Blind School and Scotia Gas Networks Pension Scheme.

Maclay Murray & Spens LLP regularly advises employers on final salary pension liabilities, particularly in the distilling, housing, care and public contracting sectors. Other clients include professional trustees and suppliers of personal pension and master trust services. ‘Knowledgeable, proactive’ team head David Knox assisted the Educational Institution of Scotland (EIS) with pension law aspects linked to employment settlement agreements. The team also acted for Port of Leith Housing Association and four other housing associations on de-risking and compliance issues, and Lloyds Banking Group on pension law matters arising from a merger of three pension trustee companies. Employment lawyer Mark Hamilton is well versed in occupational pension issues.

Anderson Strathern has a strong profile advising pension providers, trustees and members on self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs) and small self-administered schemes (SSASs). In an illustration of its track record in this space, the practice advised Glasgow-based financial planner Yorsipp on SIPPs and SSAS matters, as well as advising the client on the legislative requirements for proposed scheme investments and loans. Team head Steven Dunn advised PSFM and Monument SSAS on general scheme administration matters, and advised eight local community justice authorities on the pension implications arising from the proposed establishment of a new non-departmental public body. The Royal College of Nursing is another client.

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Legal Developments in Scotland 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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