Pensions and employee benefits in Ireland

A&L Goodbody LLP

A&L Goodbody LLP's sizeable pensions team provides advice to prominent multinationals on complex issues such as the operation of cross-jurisdictional schemes. The practice is led by the 'extremely knowledgeable' David Main; Chris Comerford and David Francis are other key pensions partners in the team. Keavy Ryan is known for her work on employee benefits, and is particularly involved in handling the benefits aspects of corporate transactions.

Practice head(s):

David Main

Other key lawyers:

Chris Comerford; David Francis; Keavy Ryan

Testimonials

‘The team consistently goes the extra mile for their clients. Their advice is always very comprehensive and they cover every angle. Finally, they always respond in an extremely prompt manner.’

‘Quality of advice, the ability to impart that advice clearly and unambiguously and ensure follow up afterwards. That service combined with the quality of the people amount to a pretty formidable combination.’

‘David Francis has great expertise coupled with a commercial approach. Aoife Malone offers technical excellence and is a great communicator.’

‘I don’t have a comparison with other firms but I am very happy with the service received from Keavy Ryan and Rosaleen Boyle. Their response is always thorough and well thought through.’

‘Keavy Ryan and Rosaleen Boyle provide a very professional service, they are very engaged and as a client we have the sense that they are pro-active in considering our interests.’

‘Incredibly responsive service from David Francis. He always has best interests of client in focus available at all times.’

‘In-depth knowledge of pensions law and providing expert advice to trustees and associates.’

‘Chris Comerford provides an excellent service, quick to respond and provides technical advice that is easy to understand for non-employed trustees and other stakeholders’

‘David Main is extremely knowledgeable in his field.’

Key clients

Irish Airline Pilots Pensions (DAC) Irish Airlines Pensions DAC

The Trustees of the Bank of Ireland Staff Pensions Fund

KPMG

Heineken Ireland Limited

Zurich

Aviva

Capita

Tesco

GE

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Standard Life

Allianz

CRH plc

Permanent TSB

Trustee of AA Ireland Pension Scheme

Trustees of Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Staff Benefits Scheme

Xerox

Cook Medical

Collins Aerospace

Perrigo

Incentives

Scottish & Southern Energy

XL Caitlin Group Limited

Britvic plc

Cairn Homes plc

Glenveagh Properties plc

Irish Continental Group plc

Dalata Hotel Group plc

Oneview Healthcare plc

Perrigo Company plc

Marks & Spencer plc

Bank of America

Bank of China

Comcast Inc

Work highlights

  • Advised Investec on the pensions aspects of the sale of its wealth management business to Brewin Dolphin for €44m.
  • Advised the Brinks Company on the Irish pensions aspects of its multi-jurisdictional acquisition of G4S’s cash operations business.
  • Advising the trustees of the two large defined benefit schemes operating in relation to Dublin and Shannon Airports in respect of general employees and pilots.

Arthur Cox

Led by Philip Smith, Arthur Cox's team advises on pensions matters including the closure of defined-benefit schemes to future accrual, the winding-up of schemes, as well as handling disputes relating to pension schemes. Smith is dual-qualified in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and has particular expertise in advising on pension matters with Irish aspects in the UK. The team is also active in advising clients on current issues affecting pensions such as Covid-19 and the transposition of the IORP II directive in Ireland. Sarah McCague, who was recently promoted to the partnership, has a broad practice advising employers and trustees on pension issues.

Practice head(s):

Philip Smith

Other key lawyers:

Sarah McCague; Daniel Watters

Testimonials

‘Associate Daniel Watters was exceptional; commercial, responsive, personable and I was confident of his good judgement.’

‘Clear concise advice available quickly. The people we deal with have good knowledge of our schemes without the necessity to check deeds etc.’

‘Daniel Watters is professional, pleasant and quick to respond. He is always helpful and patient in explaining his advice.’

‘Professional, personable, helpful, able to communicate with great clarity and gauge their audience well (with an understanding that not all parties will have the same level of expert knowledge). Respected highly within the industry.’

‘An excellent pensions team.’

‘Phil Smith is recognised as a leading pensions lawyer in Ireland, with a knowledgeable and pragmatic approach to advice,’

Key clients

daa plc

Construction Executive Retirement Savings (ROI)

CRH plc

RTÉ (Trustees)

Bord Gáis Energy

Diageo

Ervia/Irish Water

Vodafone

Trustees of the Zurich Ireland Group Pension Scheme

Work highlights

  • Advising Vodafone on the documentation of contingent assets, escrow agreements and a regulatory funding proposal.
  • Advising Trustees of daa DC pension scheme on the legal aspects of risk management including preparation for IORP II governance requirements and Covid-19 related issues.
  • Advising several company and trustee clients on proposals to close DB schemes to future accrual.

ByrneWallace LLP

Led by Liam Connellan, ByrneWallace LLP is active in advising on the pension implications of corporate transactions, as well as the wind-up and closure to future accrual of defined benefit schemes. The practice also advises trustees on changes to the organisation of pension schemes. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm has continued to provide guidance to clients through a series of online workshops, presented to private and public sector clients.

Practice head(s):

Liam Connellan

Other key lawyers:

Loughlin Deegan

Testimonials

‘My experience of ByrneWallace has been of outstanding expertise in their specific field. This along with their attention to the client requirements and quality on case management has led to a loyal client base.’

‘Their key strength is their ability to put pension legal knowledge to use in a practical way. We work with Liam Connellan who is particularly responsive and collaborative.’

‘We worked with Liam Connellan. It is rare to find the combination of such attention to detail and exceptional customer focus in the same individual. Liam personifies this. Loughlin Deegan has very strong technical knowledge, providing clear and concise advice with a practical understanding of our needs.’

‘ByrneWallace are very much customer service oriented, they are knowledgeable and pragmatic and provide timely feedback.’

‘Liam Connellan is our go-to lawyer for pensions. His in-depth knowledge of the industry and all relevant players means he gets the best results for us.’

‘The pensions and employee benefits team has provided succinct and comprehensive advice every time I have dealt with them. The team is highly credible, professional, commercial and has great business acumen. A trusted adviser. Their attentiveness, commerciality and availability is outstanding. The quality of the team is of a very high standard and the depth of knowledge and experience in dealing with complex pensions matters is clearly evident.’

‘Liam Connellan is extremely personable and is very available to clients. He manages all interactions in a professional and commercial manner. He is responsive, very strong at business development and understands its importance to his business clients.’

Key clients

FCR Media Limited

PrecisionBiotics Group Limited (formerly Alimentary Health)

The shareholders of M&M Walshe group

Work highlights

  • Advised FCR Media on the closure of the defined benefit Golden Pages Pension Plan to future accrual, the negotiation of a funding agreement and charges over the company’s assets with the trustees of the Plan, the pension issues arising from FCR Media’s examinership and the subsequent winding up of the Plan.
  • Advised the shareholders of PrecisionBiotics Group on its acquisition by a listed Danish biotechnology group, Novozymes.
  • Advised the owners of the M&M Walshe group on all aspects (including all pension-related aspects) of its acquisition by Eight Fifty Food Group.

Eversheds Sutherland

'Professional and personable', Eversheds Sutherland's pension team handles matters including master trusts, pension de-mergers, and the closure of pension schemes to future accrual. The team also provides ongoing advice to trustees on issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic. The practice is led by Peter Fahy, who is praised as 'very knowledgeable, diligent and proactive'. Lorcan Keenan is another key partner, and has notable expertise handling defined benefit scheme restructurings.

Practice head(s):

Peter Fahy

Other key lawyers:

Lorcan Keenan; David McKeating

Testimonials

‘The team is both professional and personable. That makes them very easy to work with, taking a lot of stress out of a (usually) stressful situation. They responded quickly to queries, with exemplary turnaround on documents and letters.’

‘Peter Fahy’s ability to foresee and anticipate issues is superb. Your legal advisor being able to anticipate an issue and know exactly how to address it is invaluable – it saves time, money and stress. Peter’s knowledge of pensions law is second to none.’

‘Eversheds Sutherland in Ireland has a top-class share and employee benefit practice and additionally is particularly well-placed to advise international clients because of the strength and depth of its international operations. This is invaluable when structuring an employee share scheme or benefit program on a multi-jurisdictional basis. The Eversheds Ireland team do a superb job in streamlining the various moving parts in an international program, addressing the underlying conceptual differences and presenting the client with best- in-class solutions.’

‘Peter Fahy is a technically excellent lawyer who is very responsive and navigates his clients skilfully through the maelstrom of laws ancient and modern and the operational and practical implications of shares and benefits schemes. As head of the practice, Peter has done a great job of attracting and retaining excellent colleagues at partner and associate level.’

‘The pensions and employment benefits practice operates as a cohesive cross-discipline group having several pre-eminent partners who collaborate very effectively with each other across different practice areas and other jurisdictions. The employee benefits practice is very strong across both share schemes and related incentives and pensions.’

‘Peter Fahy is an outstanding pensions and employee benefit schemes lawyer combining meticulous drafting with a superb grasp of the policy issues and drivers behind the working of and developments in this sector. Peter is very responsive to and supportive of his clients needs, both current and on a forward-looking basis. He has the gravitas to get the message across clearly to non-lawyer clients in a very user-friendly manner and on a pragmatic basis.’

‘Peter Fahy has proven to be very knowledgeable, diligent and proactive in looking out for the best interest of our company. David McKeating is an excellent communicator with demonstrated ability to translate legal terms to plain English. Both are especially good at providing prompt responses.’

‘Lorcan Keenan is extremely knowledgeable in the area of pensions and provides relevant and practical advice.’

Key clients

PayPal

Willis Towers Watson

Microsoft

World Rugby

Aldi

Intel Corporation

Cook Medical

Eventbrite

Next Retail

Lockton Companies

Health Service Executive (HSE)

CIE

Siemens plc

Irish Blood Transfusion Service superannuation scheme

Bausch & Lomb pension schemes

Imperial Brands plc

Primark Pension Trustees

Smurfit Kappa pension schemes

Nestle SA

Liberty Seguros Compania de Seguros y Reaseguros S.A. (Liberty Europe

AIB Plc

Japan Tobacco Ireland pension scheme

Irish Aviation Authority Pension Schemes

Zurich Life Assurance Plc

Work highlights

  • Acted for the trustees of the Goodbody Employee Benefit Trust (the EBT) on the proposed sale of its 49% shareholding in Ganmac Holdings, the parent company of Goodbody Stockbrokers, to Bank of China (UK) in the context of an overall sale of the entire share capital in Ganmac Holdings to Bank of China; the transaction was ultimately refused.
  • Advising the corporate trustee of Primark’s Irish pension scheme.
  • Providing ongoing advice to the trustees of Medite’s defined benefit pension scheme.

Mason Hayes & Curran LLP

Under the leadership of Stephen Gillick, Mason Hayes & Curran LLP's team handles complex, highly technical pensions matters, ranging from the revision and closure of defined benefit schemes to the development of novel pension products. The team also advises clients on complaints made to the Pension Ombudsman. Its client base includes prominent multinationals active in the Irish market. The experienced Peggy Hughes is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Gillick

Other key lawyers:

Peggy Hughes

Testimonials

‘Peggy Hughes dealt with the advice requested. It was a specific query and Peggy dealt well with our query including taking the time to fully explain the various aspects, the judgements involved and the basis of the conclusions and to fully understand the context of the query.

Work highlights

  • Advised a multinational professional services company on the complete revision and update of its defined contribution pension scheme in Ireland.
  • Assisted the charity in recouping overpayments that were made to a large number of employee’s pension funds due to administrative errors.

Matheson

At Matheson, practice head Deirdre Cummins and associate Jane McKeever have a proven track record in handling both contentious and non-contentious pensions matters. The team is particularly active in advising trustees of pension schemes on issues such as the wind-up of schemes and complaints made to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.

Practice head(s):

Deirdre Cummins

Other key lawyers:

Jane McKeever

Testimonials

‘Deirdre Cummins is always responsive and considered. She always has best interests of client in focus.’

Key clients

Trustees of a defined benefit scheme operated by a multi-national pharma company

Trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme

Work highlights

  • Advising the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme in relation to a complaint brought against them to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.
  • Advising the trustees of a defined benefit pension scheme on the wind up of the scheme and a proposal by the employer that surplus assets over and above those required to fund the benefits should be returned to the employer.

McCann FitzGerald

Led by Eleanor Cunningham, McCann FitzGerald provides ongoing advice to trustees of large pension schemes as well as assisting with alterations to these schemes. The team is also involved in handling pension issues arising from insolvencies, as well as the establishment of new schemes. Consultant Catherine Austin is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Eleanor Cunningham

Other key lawyers:

Catherine Austin; Clementine Farrell

Testimonials

‘A capable, knowledgeable team with nous and market understanding as well as legal know how.’

‘Good quality advice, efficiently delivered and reasonably priced.’

‘Eleanor Cunningham is extremely diligent, very accessible and provides good practical advice.’

‘The team commits to being available 24/7/365 and the team delivers on that commitment.’

‘Catherine Austin is an exceptional lawyer who brings her extensive experience and expertise in the area of pensions to provide solution-focused advice.’

‘Eleanor Cunningham is always available, very knowledgeable, easy to work with, and provide high quality advice in a very clear manner. Ably supported by her team.’

‘Strong team at every level, from junior associate to partner. Very responsive.’

‘Catherine Austin and Eleanor Cunningham both provide structured advice that targets the key points and consider things from a practical business perspective.’

Key clients

Aer Lingus

Pfizer Plans Trustees

ESB Committee

Ford Trustees

Steel Company of Ireland Trustees

Work highlights

  • Advising Aer Lingus Limited on its multiple pension schemes on an ongoing basis, including providing advice in relation to two defined benefit schemes, and two supplementary schemes.
  • Advising the trustees of a number of Pfizer Pension Plans on a range of issues and drafting trust deeds and rules.
  • Advising the ESB Pension Scheme Committee and the in-house pension group in ESB which supports the Committee on a wide-range of issues on an ongoing basis.

William Fry

William Fry's pensions and employee benefits team handles a range of matters in this space for Irish and multinational clients. On the pension side, the practice advises on the winding-up and merger of defined pension benefit schemes while in the area of employee benefits, the team has recently handled share awards following IPOs, as well as the structuring of benefit schemes for high-level employees. The practice also provides input on the pension and employee benefit aspects of corporate transactions. The practice is led by pensions specialist Ian Devlin and consultant Maura Roe, whose expertise lies in employee benefits.

Practice head(s):

Ian Devlin; Maura Roe

Testimonials

‘A very reputable firm who provide very good information and advice on pensions and related matters.’

‘Very knowledgeable and able to communicate in a clear and decisive manner.’

‘A strong pensions team.’

‘Ian Devlin provides helpful advice and attentive service.’

‘Expert, timely and pragmatic.’

‘Ian Devlin has depth of understanding of pensions and is highly responsive and outcome focused.’

Key clients

Pointy

Affiliates Management Company

Qorvo Inc.

OFP GE European Pension Fund

Willis Ireland Staff Pension Scheme

Willis Insurance Services (Irl) Pension Scheme

Premier Lotteries

Tesco

J&E Davy

Uniphar

Irish Credit Bureau

Axa Life

Sodexo Limited

SOLAS, The National Training Authority

Sanofi – Aventis

Aviva Ireland Staff Pension Fund

Marks & Spencer Ireland Pension Scheme

Fineos

Phoenix Group

DCC plc

Smurfit Kappa plc

Mincon plc

Hammerson

Intercom

Work highlights

  • Advised Irish technology company Pointy on employee benefit matters in connection with its acquisition by Google.
  • Advised Irish fintech company Fineos on the initial public offering of its shares on the Australian stock exchange (EURO 129 million), which included working with Australian counsel Clayton Utz to advise on all share option matters, including the establishment of a global share incentive plan.
  • Provided advice to the trustee of the Aviva Ireland Staff Defined Contribution Plan on a complex scheme merger exercise.

LK Shields Solicitors LLP

LK Shields Solicitors LLP's pension practice advises on the pension and employee benefits aspects of corporate transactions, as well as acting for pensioners in litigation. The team also provides ongoing advice to the trustees of pension funds. Aoife Bradley leads the team, and frequently acts alongside partners from the firm's corporate and commercial team.

Practice head(s):

Aoife Bradley

Key clients

Renatus Capital Partners

Pensioner Member of Retired Aviation Staff Association of Aer Lingus

Work highlights

  • Advised 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 class action-type lawsuit.
  • Advised Infravia Capital Partners on the sale of Cignal to IBEX 35-listed Cellnex Telecom Group.
  • Advised the shareholders of O’Driscoll O’Neil Group on the sale of the company to Arachas Bidco DAC, the principal diversified and independent broking and underwriting group in the UK.