Pensions litigation case studies

‘”They are practical, well resourced and responsive, with strong industry knowledge.” Chambers UK

“The knowledge of the team is excellent and no matter what is requested of them, what comes back is excellent.” Chambers

“The highly collaborative pensions litigation team provide High Court litigation, regulatory investigations, risk management work, data breaches and disputes with members and advisers.” Legal 500

“Sackers is a go to firm for pensions litigation and advice. They have a great team of experienced lawyers who have seen it all. You always get a personal touch that can be lacking at the larger firms.” Legal 500

Court litigation

A few recent High Court cases where we have been involved are set out below. But you may be more interested to hear about one that did not go to court, and the steps we took avoid it.

As a firm, we had acted for an employer client for a number of years. Out of the blue, the pension scheme’s administrators had identified a problem with the pension increases wording in one of their deeds. It was at that stage that our litigation team got involved.

Although the drafting was complex, a strict reading of the rules would have resulted in the scheme’s liabilities being increased by millions. But, crucially, on careful analysis of the rules in their context, it was clear that there had been a mistake in the drafting and what the intention was.

Working constructively with the trustee’s legal advisers, we instructed Leading Counsel and obtained robust advice that there was a strong basis to apply ‘corrective construction’ and that it would be appropriate for the trustee to continue to administer the scheme on that basis without the need to obtain a court ruling to that effect.

Notable cases

  • Ove Arup & Partners International Ltd [2020] EWCH 1064 (Ch)
  • ITV Network Limited [2019] EWHC 266 (Ch)
  • Lloyds Bank plc [2019] EWHC 3775 (Ch)
  • Wedgwood Pension Plan Trustee Limited v Keith Salt [2018] EWHC 79 (Ch)
  • Pollock and others v Reed and others (involving the Halcrow Pension Scheme) [2015] EWCH 3685 (Ch.)


Member disputes

We regularly advise clients on member complaints under the IDRP and before the Pensions Ombudsman and we are well versed in the position that the Ombudsman is likely to take in relation to the wide range of complaints that are made to him.

On occasion we will see complaints that have merit and we will work with clients to resolve these at the earliest opportunity. A recent example of this is a claim that was made by a member in relation to the failure to carry out appropriate due diligence on the scheme he was transferring to.

The member had lost their entire pension and claimed that this was the result of the trustee’s failure to follow the appropriate processes in making the transfer. We initially directed the member to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme which resulted in a substantial recovery. We then agreed a settlement of a portion of the balance of the member’s loss to reflect the fact that his case had some merit but was not guaranteed to succeed. This avoided the cost of a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman and ensured that the member was appropriately compensated.

Regulatory and risk

TPR had informed our client, the trustee of a DB pension scheme, that it was unhappy with the basis upon which an earlier actuarial valuation had been agreed and was opening an investigation into whether to seek to exercise its formal ‘scheme funding’ powers. TPR’s concerns related to the appropriateness of the recovery plan.

We guided the trustee through the process – responding as appropriate to the investigation, whilst also seeking to maintain a constructive dialogue with both TPR and the employer. Issues such as the application of legal privilege to disclosure orders were carefully navigated. The focus of all parties ultimately turned to the next valuation and, against the background of having preserved a constructive working relationship with both the employer and TPR, it was swiftly agreed and TPR’s investigation was brought to an end.