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Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP’s pensions team attracts praise for combining ‘seasoned industry veterans with young talent’. International pensions team head Liz Fallon specialises in handling pensions aspects for cross-border M&A transactions. She is supported by Gary Delderfield, who heads the firm’s public sector pensions team, and Sarah Franklin, who is ‘a pleasure to work with’. Franklin recently acted for a multinational client on a $3.4bn scheme merger, and is providing ongoing advice to another international client on the buyout of deferred liabilities of one of its divisions and the creation of a new defined contribution section. Emma King, who heads the pensions team in Birmingham, provides ‘firm advice tempered by pragmatism’; she acted for the trustees of the Safeway Pension Scheme in a High Court application for the normalisation of retirement age. In an illustration of the firm’s public-sector expertise, principal associate Gavin Paul (who attracts praise for his ‘high level of technical knowledge and dedication to meeting deadlines’) is acting with Delderfield for the West Midlands pension fund. Clients also recommend associate Fiona Goodman.

Gowling WLG’s pension team comprises ‘talented, technically strong, commercially savvy and solution-driven lawyers’ led by the ‘experienced, calm and personableGlyn Ryland, who specialises in pensions investment law and funding negotiations. Highlights included acting for Pirelli on longevity swaps for two of its UK pension funds; Paul Carberry and director Christopher Stiles acted on that matter, while Richard Lee and ‘very reliable and knowledgeable’ director Joanne Tibbott advised a multinational group on follow-on issues concerning salary linkage, salary sacrifice matters and health benefits following the client’s switch to a career average hybrid scheme. Aided by the London office, Richard Black undertook a pensions increase exchange exercise for the trustee of the client’s defined benefits scheme, which resulted in a significant fund liability reduction. Black also assisted the same trustee with a complete review of governance documentation. Other notable clients include new client Weetabix, the ICL Group Pension Plan and Rothesay Life.

The pensions team at Pinsent Masons LLP is jointly led Simon Laight, who leads the national insured pensions practice, and public sector pensions expert and Nick Stones. Clients also single out Daniel Shelley, who specialises in providing ongoing advice to large schemes. Stones led the advice to Teva on the treatment of pension liabilities as a result of its sale of Actavis Generics, while Laight advised the Association of Member Directed Pension Schemes on its challenge to HMRC withholding tax relief on in-specie contributions. Shelley advised a major corporate client on a scheme merger and acted for a household name in the food industry regarding the merger of two of its three pension arrangements, which required a balance of powers review and the rectification of a provision missed by the client in its feasibility study. Other notable clients include L&G, AEGON, Aviva and Covea.

According to some, the pensions team at Squire Patton Boggs, led by Matthew Giles, is ‘the number one choice in Birmingham’ and ‘cannot be faulted in terms of quality, timeliness and value for money’. Philip Suttonis an incredibly strong legal operator’ and ‘the ideal person to fight your corner in a complex matter’. He acted for the trustees of the Database Group scheme on a clearance application and securing full buyout funding from shareholders to facilitate the sale of the business to a US buyer. Giles acted alongside Helen Miles and senior associate Victoria Jeacock for the trustees of Jaguar Land Rover’s three pension plans on rule changes, benefits issues, litigation and investment activity in overseas jurisdictions. Clients also single out director and ‘deep thinker’ Kevin Burge. Georgina Rankin joined Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP.

Michael Collins heads Gateley Plc’s pensions department in Birmingham and is ‘an excellent ambassador’ on pensions matters. He is supported by Kate Lloyd, who advised a client with regards to an application for rectification by summary judgement of a rule amendment which had made a member’s period of pensionable service subject to the LPI rate of increase. Other highlights included acting for the trustees of Hill & Smith’s two defined benefit schemes on their merger; Collins and solicitor Paul Wild acted on that matter, while Collins and associate Jill Walters acted for the trustees of Chamberlin’s pension scheme on contingency assets to be put in place as additional protection and to reduce its PPF levy, which involved close co-operation with the firm’s property and banking practices. The University of Leicester, Nufarm and AS Watson are also clients.

Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP is singled out for its public sector expertise, especially in the social housing and local government sectors, where practice head and senior associate Douglas Mullen is particularly well regarded. The firm also draws on the expertise of Matthew Wort, who leads on health and social care matters. The team recently assisted Midland Heart with regards to a contributions underpayment issue in an NHS scheme, and advised McIntyre Care on a pension de-risking strategy with Derbyshire Council. The practice also acted for Salford city council on the launch of a new independent housing association.

Mills & Reeve LLP has a ‘knowledgeable’ pensions practice headed by Clare Grice, who is considered a ‘personable expert in her field’ with particularly strong expertise in the charities and not-for-profit sectors. Recent highlights include assisting LG Harris with the pensions aspects of its acquisition by the Norway-based Okra, and advising PageOne on the merger of its scheme with Capita Group’s scheme. Grice also acted on behalf of a financial institution with an international parent with regards to pension liabilities arising from the dissolution of a UK subsidiary, and acted for the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme on the release of a number of properties from a complex contingent asset agreement.

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