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Chancery DivisionThursday 5 May 2016

Pollock v Reed [2015] EWHC 3685 (Ch)

The embargo on publication of the judgment of Asplin J given on 18 December 2015 in the “secret case” has now been lifted.

The case relates to Project Gravity, a proposed restructuring of the benefits under a scheme with more than 3,000 members and a solvency deficit of £600 million. The evidence was that without a restructuring the scheme would go into winding-up and enter the PPF.  The trustees sought court approval of a bulk transfer without member consent to a newly-established scheme, whose benefits were lower than the headline benefits under the old scheme, but no worse and in most cases better than PPF benefits, and which would have a capped guarantee from the employer’s US parent.

Asplin J indicated that she would have blessed the trustees’ decision to carry out Project Gravity as a reasonable and proper one, but held with regret that it was not permissible under the Preservation Regulations, rejecting the argument of the trustees and the employer that the Regulations required or permitted the scheme actuary to take into account the security of benefits when deciding whether the members could be transferred without consent.

Nine Wilberforce Chambers barristers appeared in the case: Edward Sawyer and Simon Atkinson (along with Andrew Spink QC) for the trustees, Jonathan Evans QC for the representative beneficiary, Robert Ham QC and Jonathan Chew for the employer, Andrew Mold for the PPF and Michael Tennet QC, Jonathan Hilliard QC and Bobby Friedman for the Pensions Regulator.

Download the Judgment here (Crown Copyright)

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