Pensions and employee benefits in Ireland

A&L Goodbody

A&L Goodbody's pensions and incentives practice handles a variety of matters. The team is led by David Main, who alongside David Francis and Chris Comerford has comprehensive experience advising companies on their pension arrangements. On the incentives side, Keavy Ryan assists with their share plans, particularly as a part of M&A. The team as a whole is valued by clients for its 'deep and very thorough knowledge of the law' and 'extremely prompt manner'.

Practice head(s):

David Main

Testimonials

‘We appreciate their depth of knowledge, commitment to the client, availability, innovative solutions , and friendliness. They would be my number one choice.’

‘The team consistently goes the ‘extra mile’ for their clients and they respond to queries in an extremely prompt manner.’

‘We work with the A&L Goodbody pensions team across the island of Ireland. They have the strength in depth to work effectively for any size of client and transaction.’

‘Excellent team – our go-to practice for Irish pensions law. Very responsive and easy to deal with. Deep and very thorough knowledge of the law but commercial too.’

‘David Francis and David Main both know the law but are commercial and great with clients at the same time. Very easy to deal with.’

‘David Francis and David Main are the key partners in the Dublin team. The depth of expertise and quality of service is second to none. They are user-friendly to a fault! In addition, Aoife Malone is an outstanding associate in the team. They are a great team to work with on mutual clients as they have a very clear understanding of where the relevant jurisdictions are demarcated, drawing in cross-border advice as and when needed to the benefit of the client.’

‘My main contact is David Francis. His advice, which is valued greatly by clients, is always very clear and thorough – every angle is covered. David is extremely accessible and is very happy to take a phone call outside of the 9 to 5 hours. It is always a pleasure dealing with David.’

‘I deal mainly with David Francis. He embodies all of the attributes set out above and is my yardstick for assessing the firm as a whole.’

Key clients

Irish Airline Pilots Pensions DAC

The Trustees of the Bank of Ireland Staff Pensions Fund

Trustees of the EY pension plans

Heineken Ireland Limited

Scottish & Southern Energy

Tesco

Capita

GE

Work highlights

  • Advising Capita on all aspects of its Irish pension arrangements.
  • Advising Aviva on its various defined benefit and defined contribution pension arrangements in Ireland.
  • Assisted 888 with pension-related issues arising from its acquisition of Betbright.

Arthur Cox

Arthur Cox's team handles the full spectrum of matters and works with its offices in Belfast and London to handle cross-border matters. In 2019 the firm was particularly active in work involving defined pension schemes and master trusts, as well as advising clients on the implications of the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP II) directive. The practice is led by Philip Smith, who is qualified to practice in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Of counsel Sarah McCague and associate Daniel Watters are other names to note. Catherine Austin left the firm.

Practice head(s):

Philip Smith

Testimonials

‘Their strengths are their knowledge of the industry, expertise in their field, keeping up to date with emerging topics/issues and are quick to advise on them. They are proactive in bringing important issues to the table. They have good engagement with the company and the Trustees and are responsive, professional, and pragmatic in approach.’

‘They demonstrate a good knowledge of the law. They are responsive and there’s never a delay in responding to queries – they always seem to be available and respond quickly to requests. The associate we work with is very competent which gives a sense of comfort of not been overly reliant on one person.’

‘We have some very complex issues and have always found their advice to be very pragmatic, helpful, clear and commercial. I would recommend them to any trustee board or company.’

‘The trustee uses Arthur Cox’s pensions team, comprising Philip Smith and senior associate Sarah McCague, on legal and member matters pertaining to the scheme. They are ably supported by the wider pensions team. The key requirement is to provide clear and pragmatic advice which focuses on clear and commercial solutions, often on highly complex and historical issues which arise in a scheme such as ours, in a timely manner.  The importance of this service is highly valued.’

Key clients

daa

Construction Industry Federation

RTÉ (Trustees)

Diageo

Trustees of the AccBank pension scheme

Ervia / Irish Water

Vodafone

Trinity College

Work highlights

  • Advising trustees of the Ervia pension scheme on the impact of state pension age changes.
  • Acting for the Sisters of Charity in a dispute with Health Services Executive regarding responsibility for the pension arrangements of transferred employees.
  • Assisting the Construction Industry Federation with the application for master trust authorisation from the UK pensions regulator for the Workers Pension Trust scheme.

3 Verulam Buildings

Byrne Wallace hired Liam Connellan as its practice head from William Fry in September 2018.  Connellan is 'hugely experienced, knowledgeable and approachable'. Recent work for the team includes advising on the administration and winding-up of pension plans.The team acts in conjunction with the firm's corporate, employment, and tax practices, and has 'excellent knowledge of all aspects of pensions law'. Corporate lawyer Neil Keenan also advises on pension and employee benefit matters; he advises Mainstream Renewable Power on its employee and executive share option plan.

Practice head(s):

Liam Connellan

Testimonials

‘The key differentiator is their experience – in virtually every technical issue I have presented to them, they have been able to guide me based on actual experiences with other clients. In a pensions world where discretionary rules prevail, this is hugely valuable.’

‘Liam Connellan is a hugely experienced, knowledgeable and approachable resource. It is his appetite to challenge the norm and adopt creative solutions to complex issues that we value most.’

‘The pensions team at ByrneWallace has excellent knowledge of all aspects of pensions law and advise on same with a consistently clear and concise approach. The personnel are very accessible ensuring matters are dealt with efficiently. They regularly assist us with complex matters across all types of pension schemes (defined benefit, defined contribution and small self-administered schemes) bringing in members of the wider ByrneWallace team as appropriate. This collaborative approach allows the client to feel confident that all relevant matters have been covered off.’

‘Liam Connellan’s knowledge of pension legislation and associated matters is exemplary. His ability to discuss this legislation in a manner that allows the non-pensions expert to understand such a complex area is refreshing. He is very responsive and provides practical advice at all times.’

Key clients

FCR Media

Mainstream Renewable Power

Work highlights

  • Advising FCR Media Limited on the winding-up of the defined benefit Golden Pages Pension Plan.
  • Advising Mainstream Renewable Power Limited on an ongoing basis on the operation of its employee and executive share option plan and advising on that plan in the context of its recent grey market programme.

Eversheds Sutherland

Eversheds Sutherland advises on the establishment and freezing of pension schemes, as well as assisting with pension matters arising from mergers and demergers. It also advises on issues related to master trusts, recently acting for DXC technology on an accrual freeze of a defined benefit master trust. The practice is led by Peter Fahy, who has 'unparalleled experience'. Senior consultant Fiona Thornton is also a key contact in the 'very strong team'.  Lorcan Keenan joined from A&L Goodbody in January 2019. Ian Devlin is now with William Fry.

Practice head(s):

Peter Fahy

Testimonials

‘Eversheds have brought a practicality to their advice which means we don’t just understand the issues, but also have a real flavour of the implementation requirements and any issues there may be as a result. This detailed knowledge of all aspects of the sector are in my experience pretty unique.’

‘A very strong team well recognised and respected across the pensions industry.’

‘Peter Fahy’s unparalleled experience is greatly respected and he is a trusted advisor in bringing all parties to the best solution.’

‘They are knowledgeable pensions legal advisors. Good long-term relationship management means that we have appropriate, tailored advice which is relevant and specific.

‘Their in-depth knowledge of the pensions legislation and current pensions environment in Ireland today. They have the ability to deliver high quality work within tight deadlines and openness to discussing the points raised and their interpretations. I have found working with Peter Fahy to be an enjoyable experience where our expectations and the clients expectations have always been met or surpassed.’

‘Lorcan Keenan has recently joined as a partner – he’s technically strong, practical, with a nice client manner. A super hire by the firm.’

‘We work with Peter Fahy, Lorcan Keenan, David McKeating and Fiona Thornton. Aside from their professionalism, they are all very responsive, willing to engage to problem-solve and interested in the practical implications of their advice. Their responsiveness and their pragmatic advice sets them apart from some of their competitors.’

‘Peter Fahy and David McKeating both provide excellent support and they work well together as a team.’

Key clients

AIB Group

Construction Workers Pension Scheme

Aon

Smurfit Kappa Group

DXC Technology

Siemens

Primark Pension Scheme

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Ireland

Work highlights

  • Advising Liberty Insurance on the pension aspects of a cross-border merger and portfolio transfer of Group entities from Ireland to Spain.
  • Acted for the trustees of the Irish Aviation Authority pension schemes on the proposed de-merger of the Irish Aviation Authority and its separation into an air navigation authority and an aviation regulation authority, under the Air Navigation and Transport Bill.
  • Advised DXC Technology on an accrual freeze of a defined benefit master trust.

Mason Hayes & Curran

Mason Hayes & Curran's practice advises on some of the most complex issues in pension law. In the past year, its work has included advising on the operation of a cross-border pension scheme in Ireland, and it is also a popular choice for referrals from international firms. The firm also handles contentious matters. Stephen Gillick became head of the practice in 2019, taking over from the 'extremely knowledgeable and experienced' Peggy Hughes. Hughes continues to advise companies on pension matters, and recently advised a pension consultancy and its client on a risk reduction exercise for its defined benefit scheme.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Gillick

Testimonials

‘They present advice in a simple clear manner. They take a pragmatic view which is very important when dealing with complex issues where there may be ambiguity.’

‘Peggy Hughes is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced pensions lawyer. I have found Peggy to be very personable and approachable, pragmatic and solution orientated. Peggy is excellent at identifying the core issues at stake and communicating key legal concepts clearly and concisely to business stakeholders. I would not hesitate in recommending Peggy for her expertise in pension law.’

‘Peggy Hughes is very approachable and great to deal with. She will pull out the stops to ensure deadlines are met.’

Work highlights

  • Advised a European lobbying group on the possibility of basing a cross-border pension scheme in Ireland.
  • Assisted an international professional pensions consultancy and its client, a major tobacco company, with a risk reduction/liability management exercise on the client’s defined benefit pension scheme.
  • Advised a trade union on a potential conflict of interest involving a pension trustee.

Matheson

Matheson's pension team is 'well-resourced, expert and competent'. The firm particularly works with trustees, and advises on cross-border work, including cross-border IORPs. In recent work, the group handled the large-scale restructuring of two defined benefit schemes for a major retailer. Practice head Deirdre Cummins has experience of both contentious and non-contentious pension work. Senior associate Jane McKeever advised the trustees of defined benefit schemes on a number of complex matters, including the appointment of administrators to a scheme's sponsoring employer. Brian Buggy retired.

Practice head(s):

Deirdre Cummins

Testimonials

‘Good knowledge of legal aspects of Irish pensions and good response times.’

‘The team is well-resourced, expert and competent. Very accessible individuals and easy to get on with.’

Key clients

Trustees of the Danske Bank (Ireland) Pension Scheme

Trustees of the Electricity Supply Board Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Schemes

Work highlights

  • Advising the trustees of two defined benefit schemes operated by a major multi-national retailer on a proposal to replace their existing contingent asset arrangements.
  • Advising the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme on the impact of the appointment of joint administrators to the scheme’s sponsoring employer.

McCann FitzGerald

McCann FitzGerald's sizeable pensions team, which is 'always first class with a very good response time', is led by the 'excellent' Eleanor Cunningham. While it is best known for its experience in the state and semi-state space, it has recently handled a number of headline matters in the private sector. Highlights included its work for Pfizer and Aer Lingus on the clients' respective pension plans. The group was further bolstered in 2019 by the arrival of the experienced Catherine Austin, who joined from Arthur Cox as a consultant. Associate Clementine Farrell is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Eleanor Cunningham

Testimonials

‘Their work is always first class with a very good response time.’

‘Eleanor Cunningham is an excellent lawyer. She is very much on top of her brief and is well versed both in terms of the statutory instruments as they apply to the CIE Schemes and in the pension industry in general.’

Work highlights

  • Advises Aer Lingus on pension schemes, including its two defined benefit schemes and two supplementary .
  • Provides ongoing advice to the trustees of a number of Pfizer pension plans on all issues arising, including a recent matter related to the impact of Pfizer’s acquisitions and divestitures.
  • Advises the ESB Pension Scheme Committee, the largest commercial semi-state scheme in Ireland, on all matters arising related to the administration of the scheme. This includes updating the Committee on compliance and governance matters and providing training to the Committee.

William Fry

The pensions and employee benefits team at William Fry has 'a wealth of experience' in the space and handles a range of matters. In 2019 the firm hired Ian Devlin from Eversheds Sutherland, who has 'an excellent knowledge of the law' and now leads the pensions side of the practice, while the employee benefits side is led by the 'hugely experienced' Maura Roe. It has been particularly active in IPO-related matters recently, handling the pensions and employee benefit aspects of Uniphar's Irish IPO as well as acting for Fineos, an Irish-based company which launched on the Australian stock exchange. Consultant Michael Wolfe is also noted. Louise Harrison is now with Flynn O'Driscoll.

Practice head(s):

Ian Devlin; Maura Roe

Testimonials

‘The employee benefits team in William Fry has a wealth of experience in dealing with complex employee share schemes and are pragmatic and solutions focused in navigating challenges. The team also have good contacts with other service providers in this area and their recommendations are very helpful.’

‘Their strengths are their knowledge of the industry and their expertise in the field. They keep up to date with emerging topics/issues, are quick to advise on them and proactive in bringing important issues to the table. They have good engagement with the company and the trustees, responsive, professional, pragmatic in approach.’

‘Great depth in the team and great commitment to finding sustainable solutions.’

‘Ian Devlin has an excellent knowledge of the law and is very commercially minded and responsive.’

‘Maura Roe is hugely experienced in employee share option schemes and is always pragmatic and solutions focused.’

‘Ian Devlin has a fantastic commercial mindset and his experience enables him to move very quickly to the best outcome for all parties.’

Key clients

Premier Lotteries

Tesco

J&E Davy

The Irish Times

Uniphar

Irish Credit Bureau

Trustees of the Marks and Spencer Ireland Pension Scheme

Axa Life

Work highlights

  • Acted for the trustees of two of Diageo plc’s Irish pension schemes on a large scheme merger exercise.
  • Advised Sky on matters regarding its Irish all-employee share schemes in connection with its takeover by Comcast.
  • Advised Trustee Principles Ltd on regulatory issues related to an overseas bulk pension transfer proposal involving a large Irish pension scheme in the aviation sector.

LK Shields Solicitors

LK Shields Solicitors' pension practice forms a part of its broader employment, pensions, and employee benefits team and is led by Aoife Bradley. The team works alongside other practices within the firm to advise on the pensions aspects of corporate transactions. In addition, the group handles contentious matters including representing pensioners of the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme in high-profile litigation against the Irish state. Associate Gillian Dully is also experienced in advising on share plans and pensions.

Practice head(s):

Aoife Bradley

Testimonials

‘Very supportive of and helpful to the plaintiffs and clients. Available outside hours and at short notice. Extremely pleasant to deal with and appreciative of Client input. They selected strong knowledgeable counsel to make up the full legal team. Prepared to put in the necessary work to meet deadlines.’

‘The team of Ciara O’Kennedy  and associate Muireann Granville were very knowledgeable and pleasant at all times. They provided excellent research and understanding at all stages of the legal process especially during the analysis of historical documents and during discovery. They were very supportive of plaintiffs and witnesses explaining the legal processes as necessary. They located and secured the services of excellent subject matter experts.’

‘They are solutions oriented, flexible, open to alternative ideas, work well as part of a wider team of professionals, and are engaged. They take the time to clearly understand the clients brief.’

Key clients

Merc Partners

Infravia Capital Partners

Dussman Group

TOP Oil

CareChoice Group

Alexion Pharma International Operations

Work highlights

  • Acting for some 629 pensioners of the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme, the defined benefit pension scheme of Aer Lingus and the DAA, in which the state was a 25% shareholder, in a complex, class action-type litigation.
  • Assisting Alexion Pharma, a global biopharmaceutical company, with employee benefits and bonus arrangements on an ongoing basis.
  • Advising German conglomerate Dussman Group on its first acquisition in Ireland, the purchase of STG Group, including advising on the pension-related aspects of this matter.