Pensions in North West

DLA Piper

DLA Piper's national pensions team is headed from Liverpool by office managing partner Ben Miller, who boasts strong experience of acting for the trustees of some of the largest occupational schemes in the UK. The team, whose local practice head is public sector specialist Claire Bell, regularly advises on scheme mergers, closures, and wind-ups, with expertise handling the pension aspects of complex acquisitions, restructurings, and outsourcing deals. It also has experience in pensions litigation, including internal dispute resolution procedures, Pensions Ombudsman complaints, and representative actions at the High Court. Other names to note are senior associate Kate Beech and legal director Gary Davies.

Practice head(s):

Ben Miller

Other key lawyers:

Claire Bell; Kate Beech; Gary Davies

Testimonials

‘The team at DLA are extremely diligent, delivering advice which is thorough, pragmatic and well-composed so as to be easily understood by the recipient.’ 

‘The team I work with are extremely professional but more importantly approachable. Ben Miller always takes the time to understand completely the issue in hand before providing his advice. Over recent years the main ‘go-to’ contact at DLA has been Gary Davies and again, like Ben, Gary always ensures he fully understands first what the issues are. Both Ben and Gary go that little bit extra for their clients, they take the time to build solid professional working relationships and never make you feel insignificant.’ 

‘Strong team for pensions litigation. Friendly and a pleasure to work with.’ 

‘Ben Miller is on top of his game in this area and runs a great team.’ 

‘A very strong, knowledgeable and friendly team – they work in conjunction with the Trustee – giving advice where required but also feeding more generally into debates and providing examples.’ 

‘Ben Miller is great to work with in terms of his personality and ‘fit’ with the Trustee Board and in-house team. Willing to be pragmatic where appropriate, yet ensure we meet all legal requirements. He can explain issues in an easy to understand way and his oversight gives us a lot of confidence. Also very willing to listen to any constructive criticism and make changes when required and ensure we as a client are happy with his work.’ 

‘Ben Miller is a very strong client person and trusted adviser. He is pragmatic, commercial and quick on his feet. He is well supported by Gary Davies. They are very enjoyable to work with.’ 

‘The team has expert knowledge and provides precise sound advice for all areas of pension law.’ 

‘When the time comes, they are clear on their views, backed by sound research and when necessary firm and forthright. In challenging situations, they are the people to have by your side.’ 

Key clients

Trustee of the Universities Superannuation Scheme

Manchester Airport Group plc

Work highlights

  • Advised Trustee of the Universities Superannuation Scheme on various IDR and Pensions Ombudsman complaints, as well as a successful appeal by the trustee in the High Court in relation to the proper construction of a key benefit provision in the scheme rules.
  • Advising the Manchester Airport Group plc group of employers in relation to all aspects of transferring their existing DC arrangements into Legal & General’s master trust scheme.
  • Drafting a large scale rules consolidation exercise for the Royal Insurance Group Pension Scheme, involving approximately 50 separate amending deeds and two bulk transfer agreements, in preparation for future de-risking exercises.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

The Manchester team at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP has an enviable track record in the pensions space, advising on defined benefit consolidations, master trusts and cross-border scheme mergers. De-risking deals, debt and liability management, scheme funding solutions, and scheme closures are other areas of expertise. Ele Lovering heads the team, which also includes Charmian Johnson, who specialises in international work and advising employers and trustees on compromise deals with the Pension Protection Fund and the Pensions Regulator. Simon Daniel, Jon Walters, legal director Sarah Lown and principal associate Amanda Small are other names to note.

Practice head(s):

Ele Lovering

Testimonials

‘Ele Lovering leads the team, and ensures that client service is up to scratch and that advice is delivered pragmatically.’

‘Simon Daniel deals with  legal investment matters efficiently’

‘Helen May is well-organised and a solid speaker.’

‘A really strong pension team with a genuinely pragmatic approach coupled with strong and clear communication skills.’

 

Key clients

Co-operative Group’s Pension Schemes

Komatsu Mining

MAN Group’s Pension Schemes

English Football League Pension Scheme

United Utilities

INEOS Group’s Pension Schemes

Trustee of the MSD Animal Health Pension Scheme

Manchester Airport Group Pension Schemes

Outokumpu Group

Milk Pension Fund

Work highlights

  • Advised a large multinational company on the pensions implications of closing its entity (which was a sponsoring employer of a DB plan) and replacing it with a UK branch of a European company. This involved liaising with the Trustees and agreeing a letter of comfort in relation to the new principal employer triggering the wind up of the scheme to facilitate a buyout.
  • Advising Aegon Master Trust on aspects of their authorisation application, bulk transfers in to the trust, ongoing regulatory compliance, and ESG investment requirements.  
  • Instructed to produce a new consolidated Trust Deed and Rules for both the INEOS Chlor Pension Fund and the EVC UK Pension Plan, both of which have complex legacy benefits and multiple benefit sections.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Led by the 'outstanding' Stephen Scholefield, the team at Pinsent Masons LLP has extensive experience assisting a bluechip client base on pension buy-ins, buy-outs, complex scheme restructurings, and de-risking transactions. Clients include some of the largest pension schemes in the UK, financial institutions, insurance companies, and pension providers. Hayley Goldstone is a specialist pensions litigator who advises on multi-party professional negligence claims, employer funding disputes, Pension Ombudsman complaints, and regulatory disputes involving the Pensions Regulator. Robert Tellwright, a key member of the pensions de-risking team, was promoted to partner in 2019. Pippa Read is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Scholefield

Testimonials

‘The things that make this team unique is the fact that they fully understand our business and always offer suitable advice rather than generic advice. Quite often I need advice in a tight timescale which is always met.’ 

‘I have worked with Stephen Scholefield for many years and value his pragmatism. He always helps me find a solution.’ 

‘The team has gone from strength to strength; it has excellent depth of knowledge and works well in partnership with the other regional and London teams.’ 

‘Rob Tellwright is a standout individual. Rob manages the team and is always proactive, hands-on with transactional and advisory work and has an excellent knowledge of the bulk purchase annuity market. Rob has a very strong understanding of his clients and always offers value add services such as team training sessions and horizon scanning.’ 

‘Stephen Scholefield is outstanding. He is very good at listening to clients and is very sensible in terms of providing the relevant responses. His manner is very relaxed yet professional, ensuring all trustees feel they can ask any question.’ 

‘The firm is very responsive to requests and its advice is very sound and practical.’ 

‘I deal with Rob Tellwright and his team who provide excellent and timely advice and just as importantly are conscious of managing costs and are open to agreeing fixed fees and take into account the value/importance of the advice to the client when charging.’ 

‘Very committed to providing honest advice to the trustee. All members of the team are extremely competent and bring different skills to their work.’ 

‘Practical and pragmatic legal advice delivered in a timely fashion.’ 

Key clients

Balfour Beatty Pension Fund

Royal Ordnance Pension Schemes

Laird Pension Scheme

Unite the Union Pension Scheme

Newell Rubbermaid UK Pension Scheme

Mercer Limited and Mercer (Ireland) Limited

Baxi Group Pension Schemes

Just Group

Legal & General

Eurotunnel Pension Schemes

Work highlights

  • Advised Balfour Beatty Pension Fund, a £4 billion fund, on a wide range of pension issues.
  • Advised the trustee of Cadbury’s Mondelez Pension Fund on its £520m pensioner buy-in with Rothesay Life, covering approximately 1,900 pensioner members of the Fund.
  • Provide a full legal service to the trustees of the Unite the Union Pension Scheme.

Brabners LLP

The team at Brabners LLP advises on a broad range of issues for employers and trustees, with particular experience assisting clients on defined benefit, defined contribution, and hybrid schemes. Headed by 'excellent commercial operator' Ian Mylrea, it also has expertise in specialised pension schemes, including small self-administered schemes and self-invested pensions. Consultant Andrew Ashley-Taylor is a name to note, while well-versed solicitor Siu Yin Ho works alongside Mylrea on many of the team's most significant matters. Caroline Curran, previously a director at PwC LLP, joined the growing practice as a partner in April 2020.

Practice head(s):

Ian Mylrea

Testimonials

‘The Brabners team has a strong and diverse mix of experience levels. They approach problems in a solutions-orientated way which really benefits clients. They are decisive in their decision making. They offer exceptional value versus their peers.’ 

‘Ian Mylrea is an excellent commercial operator. He has an excellent network and joins up the pertinent issues well due to a strong grasp of non-legal issues. Sui Yin is a very capable client manager. She progresses issues very well and keeps stakeholders firmly in the loop.’ 

Key clients

Trustees of the Arighi Bianchi & Company

Limited Pension Scheme

Trustees of the National Association of School Masters and Union of Women Teachers Managed Pension Plan

Trustees of the Dunlop GRG Holdings Limited Pension Scheme

Peel Ports

Budenberg 4B Group Limited

@SIPP

Trustees of the Hydreco Hydraulics Plan

Panasonic Manufacturing (UK) Limited

Trustees of the Beaverbrooks the Jewellers Limited Staff Pension and Life Assurance Plan

Basketball England

Faltec Europe Limited

Trustees of the Unity (1993) Retirement Benefits Scheme (a GMB scheme)

Cobalt Housing Limited

Riverside Group Limited

Trustees of the Clydebank Co-operative Society Limited Employees’ Superannuation Fund

Catalyst Choices

Toyota Financial Services Limited

The Trustees of the HST Pension Scheme

NCR (Scotland) Pension Plan Trustees Ltd

The Land Restoration Trust

Toyota Financial Services Limited

Shop Direct Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Trustees of the National Association of School Maters and Union of Women Teachers Managed Pension Plan on their defined benefit pension scheme, and in particular, in relation to their switch to CARE accrual.
  • Advising the UK sponsor of a defined benefit pension scheme on a proposed compromise with the Pension Protection Fund and the Pensions Regulator.
  • Advising the UK sponsoring employer of a large pension scheme on a professional negligence claim against other advisers and in relation to a rectification application to the courts.

CMS

The fast-growing Manchester team at CMS received a major boost in 2019 with the arrival of the 'phenomenal' Tim Green - described as 'a terrific catch' - who joined from DWF, where he was national head of pensions, handling cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union. As well as advising on day-to-day matters, the team handles benefit redesign, scheme closures, and liability reduction for an impressive client roster of trustees and sponsors. Senior associate Alexandra Tomlinson is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Tim Green

Testimonials

‘They can offer the power of CMS resources with comparably competitive pricing.’ 

‘Tim Green is a terrific catch. He is a star, has an eye for the key point, and is a phenomenal client partner.’ 

‘Tightly knit team that is personable, responsive and generally pragmatic in terms of the advice given.’ 

‘The team is pragmatic and has a broad range of experience in terms of advising on a wide variety of pensions law, often obscure nuances.’

Key clients

Trustee of the Motor Industry Pension Plan

Trustee of the Nottingham City Transport Pension Scheme

Trustee of the Staff Superannuation Fund of Palmer & Harvey McLane (Holdings) Limited

Entrust Pension Limited

The Pensions Trust

BT

Aon Hewitt

Trustee of the FPE Global Pension Scheme

Trustee of the Pension & Life Assurance Scheme for the Family Planning Association

Trustee of the Reynards UK Ltd Section of the SME Centralised Pension Scheme

Trustee of the Betty & Taylors

Work highlights

  • Advising the Trustee of the Motor Industry Pension Plan on winding up sections and buy outs, section 75 statutory debt matters, and assessment period matters for sections within MIPP following employer insolvency.
  • Advising the trustee of the £12bn The Pensions Trust on day to day issues.
  • Advising Trustee of the SME Centralised Pension Scheme- Reynards Section on pensions issues, including PPF eligibility and assessment period matters consequent upon sponsor insolvency.

DWF

'Hardworking and engaged' senior associate Sinead Sheehan heads the Manchester pensions team at DWF, which acts for high-profile corporations along with its trustee advisory practice. Focusing on the retail, transport, utilities and insurance sectors, the department is adept at handling complex multi-employer, industry-wide pension schemes, as well as pensions litigation, namely distressed market and pensions restructurings.

Practice head(s):

Sinead Sheehan

Testimonials

‘A developing team and one to watch for the future. Being part of a large corporate law firm will allow the team to develop further and increase turnover from the opportunities the wider firm generates, with some very high-profile companies and PLCs.’ 

‘Sinead Sheehan is doing the work of a partner in stabilising the team, retaining and developing key clients and ensuring that financial hygiene is maintained. In a practice area where many practitioners seek only to find problems, Sinead stands out with a problem-solving attitude to her work.’ 

‘Sinead Sheehan is an excellent senior associate; hardworking and engaged.’ 

Key clients

WM Morrison Supermarkets Plc

Trustee of Standard Life DC Master Trust

Trustee of the Princes Pension Scheme and the Princes (1977) Pension Scheme

Trustee of the Edmundson Electrical Group Pension Schemes

Board of the Pension Protection Fund

Work highlights

  • Advising Safeway on the Safeway v Newton equalisation proceedings referred by the Court of Appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union, a case which concerns equal pay for equal work between the sexes.
  • Providing ongoing advice to the Trustee of Standard Life DC Master Trust in relation to GDPR, bulk transfers to the master trust and master trust authorisation compliance.
  • Advising Trustee of the Princes Pension Scheme and the Princes (1977) Pension Scheme on all business as usual matters; GDPR; GMP equalisation and MNT arrangements.

Gateley Plc

The team at Gateley Plc advises trustees and employers on a diverse range of matters, as well as supporting companies with pensions issues arising from corporate transactions. 'Innovative and inventive' practice head Patrick Kennedy is also the founding director of Entrust, an independent professional trustee company which operates as part of the firm, helping organisations run their pension schemes effectively. Another name to note is Stuart Evans, who has particular expertise in master trusts.

Practice head(s):

Patrick Kennedy

Other key lawyers:

Stuart Evans; Stephen Maynard

Testimonials

‘The team is fantastic to work with and very pragmatic. Their experience as professional trustees means they have an excellent understanding of how their advice affects the practical aspects of operating a pension scheme.’ 

‘Patrick Kennedy is innovative and inventive in applying his significant experience to solve pension scheme issues. He understands the big picture and doesn’t get lost in the technicality of the law.’ 

‘Really consistent on the ball, pragmatic team who are fantastic problem-solvers. They don’t mess around – plain talkers who get straight to the nub of the issue.’ 

‘Patrick Kennedy is really the doyen of North West pensions lawyers. Extremely able, fantastic technology, he is also a brilliant negotiator – can ooze charm when necessary but at the same time is a formidable adversary when the going gets tough.’ 

Work highlights

  • Acted for 25 pension schemes in the first ever multiple pension scheme medically underwritten mortality study.
  • Creating a new home for Metropolitan Housing Trust Limited’s pension scheme following its exit from a multi- employer last man standing pension scheme.

Hill Dickinson LLP

Headed by Barry Gibb, the team at Hill Dickinson LLP handles a broad range of pensions work for both corporates and trustees, with considerable experience in scheme mergers, redesigns and restructurings. The team has seen an increased flow of instructions in pensions litigation, as well as buy-ins, buy-outs. Gibb most notably advised Swissport Group in relation to the merger of three pension schemes into a newly created, sectionalised scheme. Paula Warnock is a key team member.

Practice head(s):

Barry Gibb

Other key lawyers:

Paula Warnock

Key clients

Swissport GB Limited

William Jackson Trustees Limited

Trustees of the A&P Group Pension Scheme

Trading company of a charitable trust

Trustees of the MWH UK Limited Pension and Life Assurance Plan

Trustees of the Woodbridge Foam (UK) Ltd Retirement Benefit Scheme

Trustees of the Veryards Limited Pension Plan

M.U. Pension Trustees Limited

Trustees of the Chapelthorpe plc Pension Fund

Ibstock plc

Work highlights

  • Jointly advising the Principal Employer and Trustees of a Defined Benefit Pension Scheme on £2m professional negligence claim against previous legal advisers for failing to effectively implement change of benefit basis from final salary to career average and severing final salary link.
  • Advised Swissport Group in relation to the merger of three pension schemes into a newly created, sectionalised scheme.
  • Advised the Trustees of A&P Group Pension Scheme on a Scheme buy-in for one of the sections with an insurance company.

Squire Patton Boggs

Squire Patton Boggs’ pensions team has considerable experience of advising on public sector pensions, particularly local government pension scheme issues. David Griffiths heads the Manchester-based practice, assisting clients in an assortment of sectors, having recently made inroads advising clients from the retail sector. It also has a track record of advising not-for-profit clients such as charities and trade unions. Victoria Leigh is noted for her expertise in contentious matters.

Practice head(s):

David Griffiths

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Leigh

Testimonials

‘David Griffiths is always very approachable and offers quick, clear and pragmatic solutions.’

Key clients

Trustees of the ABB Pension Plan

JLT Benefit Solutions Limited

Nampak Pension Scheme

PZ Cussons PLC Pension Trustees

Brammer Services Retirement Benefit Scheme

Fugro Pension Scheme Trustees

Banco do Brasil London Section of the Deloitte Master Trust

Homestyle 2007 Pension Plan

Australian High Commission Pension Scheme

Phoenix Life Limited

Work highlights

  • Funding security packages for pension scheme trustees, including the Trustees of the ABB Pension Plan, and the Trustee of the Brammer Services Retirement Benefit Scheme.
  • Advised the Trustees of the Nampak Staff Pension Plan in relation to Nampak Limited’s sale of the share capital of Nampak Plastics Europe Limited, including discussions with the Pensions Regulator and the negotiations on heads of terms between the Trustees and the purchaser of the share capital.
  • Assisting PZ Cussons PLC Pension Trustees with preparation for a wholesale buyout of pension schemes, carrying out detailed benefit audits and addressing issue for consideration arising out of those audits.

Weightmans LLP

Headed by Liverpool-based Mark Poulston, Weightmans LLP is instructed on a variety of pensions matters, including scheme restructurings and terminations, risk management work for trustees and employers, and life insurance issues. Manchester-based Jane Marshall specialises in public sector and education pensions, with particular expertise in the overlap between pensions and employment issues. Employers, trustees and pension providers in the private sector, as well as organisations in the health, education and not-for-profit sectors, constitute the firm’s client roster.

Practice head(s):

Mark Poulston

Other key lawyers:

Jane Marshall

Work highlights

  • Appointed as legal adviser to the National Scheme Advisory Board of the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.
  • Advised Swissport on the pensions aspects of its acquisition of Air France’s share of their joint venture company, Heathrow Cargo Handling Limited.
  • Advised the management buy-out team at Bournemouth Transport Limited on the public and private sector pensions aspects of its acquisition from its French parent company RAPT Developpement.

Fieldfisher

Jeremy Harris was recruited by Fieldfisher from DLA Piper in late 2019 to head the firm's expanding pensions team, which advises a growing client roster on benefit changes, flexible options, enhanced transfers and buy-ins and buy-outs. The practice has experience assisting with schemes in the manufacturing, chemicals, energy, utilities and higher education sectors.

Practice head(s):

Jeremy Harris

Key clients

Trustees of the Sibelco UK Occupational Pension Scheme

Trustees of the Cooper Consolidated Pension Plan

Trustees of the MTL Instruments Group Pension Scheme

Trustees of the Willsher & Quick Pension Scheme

Trustees of the JSB Electrical Staff Pension Scheme

Trustees of the WJB Pension Fund

Trustees of the Warwick International Group Pension Scheme

Corporate & Professional Pensions Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Universities Superannuation Scheme on the treatment of employer debts owed to the scheme.
  • Advising Trustees of a UK defined benefit pension scheme on a corporate restructuring affecting the employer covenant to the scheme.
  • Advising the sponsoring employer of a UK defined benefit scheme on the Pensions Regulator’s moral hazard and scheme funding powers in respect of corporate transactions including significant dividend payments.

gunnercooke LLP

The non-hierarchical structure at gunnercooke LLP means clients 'always have easy access to experienced lawyers' to advise on a wide range of matters. Described as 'technically strong' by clients, Suresh Bhatt handles both contentious and non-contentious matters, advising employers, trustees and law firms without pensions capabilities on corporate transactions, liability management, trust documentation drafting and liaising with the Pensions Regulator. Another key lawyer is Adam Bushby, who specialises in trustee and company advisory, litigation and professional trustee work.

Practice head(s):

Adam Bushby; Suresh Bhatt

Testimonials

‘Good access to senior partners, easy to deal with and pragmatic, great value for money. Their business model is such that they have ‘skin in the game’, which helps ensure first-class service every time.’ 

‘Suresh Bhatt is an absolute pleasure to work with. He is technically strong, he has a very good manner with clients, easy to get on with – explaining deeply technical legal detail in a clear and easy to understand way. I have also found him to be very accommodating – manages tight deadlines very well, always delivers and provides excellent value for money.’ 

‘In the short space of time I’ve been working with them, I’ve been very impressed with the firm and its ethos – which matches that of my own firm closely. A lot of firms say they are innovative, but gunnercooke truly are – the way in which the firm is structured means that you always have easy access to experienced lawyers who are focused on acting in a practical and commercial way.’ 

‘Suresh Bhatt has been encouraging and supportive of me and my firm (we are a relatively new start-up). He is very personable and has a firm grasp of the issues.’ 

‘Gunnercooke is innovative in pensions legal terms, with its fixed-fee pricing model and focus on senior experienced lawyers delivering commercial and pragmatic advice in a timely manner.’ 

‘Suresh Bhatt’s down-to-earth approach coupled with his pragmatism works well.’ 

Shoosmiths LLP

Headed by Paul Carney, who specialises in public service pension schemes, the team at Shoosmiths LLP advises clients in relation to scheme mergers, closures, risk management within schemes, automatic enrolment issues, and on the pensions aspects of corporate transactions. Associate Alexandra Ventham is a name to note.

Practice head(s):

Paul Carney

Other key lawyers:

Alexandra Ventham

Testimonials

‘The team offers a blend of emotional intelligence and attention to detail with a top-class litigation partner.’

‘Paul Carney is excellent in my experience – and over many years!’ 

Key clients

PSA Peugeot Citroën UK

Trustees of the Guardian Media Group plc pension schemes

Elior UK plc

Markem-imaje Limited

Trustees of the Shoreham Port Authority Pension Scheme Yes

Trustees of the Frederic Robinson Limited Pension and Life Assurance Scheme

The Growth Company Limited

Trustees of the British Salt Pension Scheme

Henkel Limited

Trustees of the Evergreen Pension Plan

Work highlights

  • Assisting the trustees of the pension scheme of a national media group with the release the principal employer of the scheme from certain obligations; this includes advising the trustees on negotiations with the group and the terms of the reorganisation the parent company is proposing.
  • Advising a large independent school on its proposed withdrawal from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
  • Advising a leading national construction company on its obligations in relation to a large, industry-wide pension scheme.

TLT

TLT advises trustees and employers on a wide range of pensions issues, including master trusts, innovative multinational restructurings, governance, and buy-ins and buy-outs. Led by Manchester-based legal director Damien Garrould, the team also handles self-invested personal pension schemes, small self-administered schemes, pensions investments, and public sector outsourcings.

Practice head(s):

Damien Garrould

Testimonials

‘The team offers clear, practical advice and is responsive.’

Key clients

Hartley Pensions Limited

Trustees of the Fujitsu Technology Solutions International Pension Scheme

Work highlights

  • Advised Hartley Pensions Limited on, and implemented, two separate acquisitions of SIPP books, the book of GPC SIPP Limited (In Administration) and Berkeley Burke SIPP Administration Limited (In Administration).