At Wilberforce Chambers, we are leading the way in the field of occupational pensions. We are market leaders with pre-eminent practitioners who specialise in all aspects of pensions law and pensions litigation. Over the past thirty years, our members have appeared in almost all the leading cases in this area. As a result, we can offer a wealth of resources and experience, with experts at all levels of seniority. This expertise has been widely acknowledged. Wilberforce Chambers was singled out as a leader by the premier independent researchers, Chambers UK 2020 describing us as “market-leading” and The Legal 500 2020 as ‘unrivalled in the area of pensions’.
As well as top quality advice and first class innovative thinking, clients can expect Wilberforce’s down-to-earth, straightforward and fantastically user-friendly service. We pride ourselves on a practical approach to the needs of employers and trustees, who want commercially realistic and cost effective solutions. We deal with the largest pension litigation worth billions of pounds down to individual disputes and complaints before the Pensions Ombudsman. Our members combine in-depth knowledge of trusts law and technical pensions legislation with expertise in the related fields of regulatory, financial services, insolvency, tax, negligence, employment, equality, European and public law that affect pensions.
We advise on cutting-edge issues and litigation affecting pension schemes and their sponsoring employers, as well as emerging issues in the field of personal pensions. Recent examples include:
- Handling Pensions Regulator issues, from FSDs through to removal of trustees
- Advising on GMP equalisation and other equality issues
- Dealing with switches from RPI pension increases through advice and litigation
- Advising on, challenging or defending the validity of decisions by trustees and employers
- Handling pensions liberation, pensions fraud and breach of trust cases
- Dealing with mistakes in pension scheme documentation
- Responding to judicial review of decisions by public bodies that affect pension schemes
- Dealing with claims in relation to mismanagement of personal pension schemes
- Structuring transactions to manage the impact of s.75 debts and addressing s.75 issues
- Advising on strategies to enable companies that can’t meet their scheme liabilities to escape insolvency
- Advising on scheme closure, restructuring and liability management exercises
- Helping to structure corporate transactions and dealing with TUPE issues
- Assistance with applying the statutory funding regime
As a result, members have been centrally involved in the leading cases of recent years, including:
- Safeway v Newton – the Court of Appeal confirmed unanimously that the introduction of s.62 of the Pensions Act 1995 was a domestic law measure that closed the Barber window with effect from 1 January 1996.
- Univar UK Ltd v Smith – the first pension rectification claim decided after a full trial since the landmark decision of FSHC Group Holdings Ltd v GLAS Trust Corp Ltd.
- British Telecommunications pension scheme – two recent cases: a Court of Appeal decision on the continued appropriateness of using RPI to increase pensions, and judicial review of the Treasury’s decision to extend full indexation to public service pension scheme members
- BHS Pension Schemes – the well publicised case of the Pensions Regulator’s action in relation to the collapse of the BHS business and the related £400m pensions shortfall.
- Lloyds Bank Pension Schemes – a landmark case confirming that there is an obligation to equalise benefits to take account of unequal Guaranteed Minimum Pensions
- Buckinghamshire v Barnardo’s – a ruling from the Supreme Court on the proper approach to interpreting pension scheme documents and switching from RPI pension increases
- British Airways – major litigation involving the validity of the decision by trustees to award above-inflation pension increases
- Box Clever – concerning the limits of the Pension Regulator’s FSD regime and the first FSD case to be determined by the courts
- IBM – concerning whether the employer’s duty of good faith had been breached by the closure of a pension scheme and remedies for the breach
- Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund – concerning the regard that a trustee should have for the interests of employers in exercising its powers under a pension scheme.
We get involved in disputes in a range of arenas, from the High Court and appellate Courts (including in Europe) through to the Pensions Regulator Determinations Panel and Upper Tribunal and the Pensions Ombudsman, and we deal with any related professional negligence issues.
Wilberforce’s well-established reputation in the field of pensions law is due in large part to the late Edward Nugee QC, and each year we dedicate a series of lectures to his memory. In 2020, our lectures were delivered as webinars and can be viewed on our YouTube channel here.