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‘Excellent across the board’, Pinsent Masons LLP’s pensions team is known for its ‘ability to seamlessly hook up with other specialisms within the firm’. In additional to a strong M&A-related pension offering, the firm has particular expertise in DB schemes, as well as pension scheme instalments and funding legal frameworks, investment, governance and reward change projects. The practice is led by Ian Gordon, who is advising the trustee of the Babcock Naval Services Pension Scheme on the transfer of past service pension benefits from the Babcock scheme to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, in a case that relates to an underlying outsourcing contract with a central government department that was being imposed on the trustee. Ruth Tobias is advising the trustees of the Plumbing Pension Scheme on high profile and complex issues concerning section 75 debt triggers and is also handle administrative aspects of the Forth Ports Group Pension Scheme, which was originated in statute and therefore contains many unusual benefit provisions. The ‘pragmatic and commercial’ Jae Fassam specialises in advising businesses, trustees and funds on all aspects of the legal framework of pension scheme investment and funding. Senior associate Cameron McCulloch is another key practitioner.

Shepherd and Wedderburn’s highly experienced team is ‘excellent in all areas’, handling pensions work including scheme documentation, employment matters related to the scheme, benefit changes, in addition to pensions advice on M&A transactions. The ‘commercially astute and pragmatic’ Louisa Knox advises the trustees of the Standard Life Staff Pension Scheme on all aspects of pensions law, including the implications of proposed corporate activity. The ‘professional, approachable and extremely competent’ Andrew Holehouse assists the Universal Music Group Pension Scheme with all pensions matters, including the appointment of Legal and General as fiduciary investment managers to the scheme and in connection with a trustee-led enhanced transfer value exercise for the scheme’s deferred members. Ed Mustard advised the trustees of the Miller Group Pension Scheme, in connection with the acquisition of Miller homes by Bridgepoint. Senior associate Richard Jones is also recommended, and has a particular focus on investment issues.

Brodies LLP acts for major employers, as well as public and private sector pension trustees, on the full range of pension issues, including governance, buy-ins, defined benefit schemes and transactions. The ‘efficient and enormously helpful’ practice head, Juliet Bayne, provides ‘extremely good support to trustee boards’, which clients note is especially useful in decision-making and protecting the trustee position in negotiations. The ‘high-calibre’ senior solicitors, Jordan Halliday and Jen Crawford, are praised for their expertise, as well as ‘an ability to understand the wider client agenda’. Highlights included representing the trustees of the John Menzies defined benefit pension fund in negotiation with John Menzies, on ways to control future pension costs and the termination of future benefit accrual. The team also advised the trustees of the Howden Group pension plan in relation to the equalisation of retirement ages for male and female members.

Burness Paull LLP, which is noted for its ‘prompt and pragmatic approach’, handles contentious and non-contentious pensions matters for employers and trustees alike. Recent work includes advising trustees on managing liabilities and buy-in projects, and a number of governance-related mandates. The firm also has substantial experience in pension litigation. Margaret Meehan recently advised Scottish Widows on the prospects of successfully defending a challenge against a proposed change to one of its pension products which would have resulted in a significant reduction in liabilities for the client. Sarah Philips (who is praised for her ‘very pragmatic, constructive advice’) is assisting Weir Group in relation to various pension matters, including the correct treatment of payment of the first instalment of a pension for senior executives, and advising on and negotiating terms of a waiver of a deficit reduction contribution, in light of a proposed bulk buyout of liabilities of a defined benefit executive pension plan. Deborah Adams is rated for her ‘ability to provide clear advice’.

CMS draws on its corporate expertise and national presence to advise major public and private sector employers trustees and pension providers on all aspects of pension arrangements. The practice is led by Alastair Hill, whose highlights included advising Stena on the establishment of its new defined benefit pension scheme, following the merger of its five existing schemes. Hill also advises the Scotia Gas Networks pension scheme on a range of pension issues, including a de-risking project, GDPR compliance, investment management and custody agreements. The group is instructed by a number of pension providers, such as Virgin Money, Scottish Widows and Standard Life, for which it handles high-risk transfer value requests, the introduction of new investment classes, investment opportunities and income tax advice.

Dentons has a strong focus on pension scheme de-risking and deal support, but recent work also includes advising schemes on data protection compliance and Equality Act compliance in relation to public sector pensions. The team is led by David Knox, who has expertise in scheme de-risking, restructuring, outsourcing and non-profit sector pensions. The group is currently advising W.L. Gore & Associates on various UK pension law compliance matters and the Dalriada pension trustees on a novel de-risk to protect scheme members which was agreed with a new owner, to underpin its investment in a global fund manager based in Scotland.

DWF’s accomplished Scotland-based pension team was appointed to the Pension Protection Fund's panel in January 2018. The practice, which handles high-profile matters for major corporates in addition to trustees, is headed by June Crombie, who possess an ‘incisive knowledge of her field’ and ‘inspires the utmost confidence’. Crombie and Maureen Burns lead the advice to VisitScotland on all pension matters, including its participation in an industry scheme and Local Government Pension Scheme, in addition to conducting an auto-enrolment review. The ‘technically able’ Colin Greig specialises in the pensions aspects of corporate transactions and pension litigation. He is advising Transport Scotland on the refranchise of ScotRail, in which the sleeper service was spun out as its own franchise at the same time.

The team at MacRoberts LLP is ‘highly responsive, with a very commercial understanding of the needs of fellow professionals and clients alike’. It advises employers and the trustees of numerous pension schemes on a range of corporate, commercial and transactional matters. The ‘technically excellent’ Martyn Shaw leads the team, which includes ‘committed’ legal director James Keith. The group is instructed by the Johnson Press Pension Plan on a number of matters, including in connection with the terms of various investment management and custody agreements. Recent highlights include assisting Badtie Group Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme with a major consolidation and update of the trust deed and rules of the scheme. On the company side, the group acted for the Scottish subsidiary of Devro in connection with liability hedging within its defined benefit occupational pension scheme.

Anderson Strathern’s clients include pension providers, trustees and members, which it has particular experience advising on self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs) and small self-administered schemes (SSASs), including documentation, scheme borrowings and investments. It also has a niche in advising individuals on raising complaints before the Pensions Ombudsman and the Financial Ombudsman Service. Steven Dunn leads the practice, and handles pension matters for both public and private sector schemes. Recent highlights include advising Yorsipp in relation to its governing documentation for SIPPs and SSASs and on the general administration of its schemes. The team also advised the trustees of the Daiwa Sports employee benefits plan on its DB scheme and on-going administration, including amendments to the scheme’s documentation.

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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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