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Sebastian is a leading commercial chancery junior specialising in all aspects of pensions.
He has a wide range of pensions experience, as both advisor and advocate, and is frequently instructed to act in many of the largest and most high-profile pensions cases (often involving highly technical or complicated actuarial issues) including for some of the largest UK pension schemes and FTSE 100 companies.
Sebastian has extensive experience and expertise in the regulatory aspects of pensions law, acting for many years on a number of important regulatory matters, both for and against the Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund. He has appeared before the Determinations Panel, the Upper Tribunal, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
The legal directories rank Sebastian as a leading junior in pensions and describe him as “a massive brain” with “strong advocacy skills” who is “always approachable” with “experience of the full spectrum of pensions cases” having “advised and advocated on some of the most large-scale pensions matters including benefits indexation, equalisation and moral hazard proceedings”. He is described as having a “sharp intellect and a fantastic manner with clients” and as being someone who “instils complete confidence in clients”.
Notable cases and published regulatory matters include:
- British Airways plc v Airways Pension Scheme Trustee (CA): acting for British Airways in a large and high-profile dispute concerning the application of the improper purposes doctrine to the exercise of amendment powers;
- Safeway v Newton (CA and CJEU): acting for Safeway in the largest ever equalisation case which overturned the long-standing authority of Warren J in Harland v Wolff;
- Airways Pension Scheme Trustees v Fielder: acting for British Airways in Beddoe proceedings brought by the Trustee of the Airways Pension Scheme;
- The Silentnight Pension Scheme: acting on the high-profile claim brought by the Pensions Regulator for a Contribution Notice against various private equity owned corporate entities;
- BHS: acting for Sir Philip Green QC in relation to the claims brought by the Pensions Regulator for a Financial Support Direction and a Contribution Notice in relation to BHS;
- R (on the application of Grace Bay II Holdings SARL and others) v The Pensions Regulator: acting for private equity entities who were the targets of a long-standing regulatory investigation in bringing judicial review proceedings against the Pensions Regulator;
- Southern Water: acting for the Pensions Regulator on a funding case brought under s.231 of the Pensions Act 2004;
- Tata Steel: acting for the Pensions Regulator on various issues arising out of the collapse of Tata Steel;
- Prohibition proceedings against Mr Johnson, Ms Turner and Mr Stowers: acting for the targets of prohibition proceedings brought by the Pensions Regulator in which a successful settlement was reached;
- Wolverhampton City Council v Mitie Property Services (UK) Ltd: acting on behalf of the Defendant in proceedings brought in for alleged unpaid pension contributions of a Government contractor to the Local Government Pension Scheme;
- Nortel Networks UK Pension Plan: acting for the trustees of the Nortel Networks UK Pension Plan in relation to the largest ever financial support direction case brought by the Pensions Regulator under the Pensions Act 2004, involving a multi-billion pound buy-out deficit. This has also involved advising the trustee on the interaction of its claim to a financial support direction as a result of the successful UK regulatory proceedings with the insolvency proceedings in various jurisdictions, including in the UK, the US and Canada;
- Re the Derfshaw Limited Retirement Benefits Scheme: acting for the Pensions Regulator in an oral hearing before the Determinations Panel and before the Upper Tribunal in relation to an application by the trustee for the winding-up of the scheme under S 11(1)(c) of the Pensions Act 1995.
Other pension issues on which Sebastian is frequently asked to act or advise include:
- pensions restructuring and other corporate pension issues, including moral hazard concerns;
- the construction of scheme documents and the exercise of trust powers, including the scheme amendment power;
- rectification claims;
- the application of pensions legislation;
- RPI and CPI issues;
- pensions fraud and liberation;
- insolvency and the winding-up of pension schemes;
- breaches of fiduciary duties and scheme investment rules;
- Pensions Ombudsman complaints and appeals;
- personal pension schemes; and
- taxation of pension schemes.
Sebastian also frequently advises the Pensions Regulator and potential targets of regulatory proceedings on confidential regulatory issues such as the issuing of Contribution Notices and Financial Support Directions, proceedings under s.231 of the Pensions Act 2004, prohibition proceedings, the validity of s.72 requests, the appointment of independent trustees, the publication of s.89 reports and the issuing of improvement notices.
Sebastian recently successfully defended a Scheme Actuary in disciplinary proceedings brought by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.