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Thomas has a wealth of experience in pensions litigation and advisory work.


He acts in all types of litigation, including contentious litigation and compromises and Beddoe applications, Pension Ombudsman complaints and appeals, and regulatory matters. These include:

  • Disputes between employer, trustees and (commonly) a representative scheme member as to the effect or operation of scheme provisions: and the actual or proposed exercise of scheme powers.
  • Disputes as to the status, validity and effect of trustee decisions and exercise of powers.
  • Disputes as to the construction, mistake, estoppel and rectification of scheme documents.
  • Pensions mis-selling and pensions liberation.
  • Sex discrimination and equalisation.
  • Disputes as to investment and breaches of trust, including trustee exoneration, limitation and relief  from liability.
  • Proceedings before the Pensions Regulator relating to moral hazard powers (financial support directions and contribution notices).


He advises scheme employers, targets faced with warning notices under the moral hazard provisions, scheme members on specific issues, and also commonly represents scheme trustees or representative members on Beddoe and other court applications. Subjects on which Thomas commonly advises include those identified above; early retirement provisions; scheme funding; cessation of accrual, winding-up and S.75 debts (in single and multi-employer schemes): preservation and contracting-out and moral hazard provisions. He has also advised HMRC on VAT issues arising under occupational pension schemes. He also advises in relation to personal pension arrangements, including qualified recognised occupational pension schemes.

  Notable matters include:

  • Acting as part of a team representing pilots who were members of the Monarch and BMI Pension Schemes, who brought proceedings against the Pension Protection Fund (Hughes and others v Board of the Pension Protection Fund). This was a double victory for members of schemes in the PPF in that the PPF compensation cap was disapplied from inception and the challenge to the PPF’s interim scheme for Hampshire 50% uplift was successful.
  • Acting for and advising the targets in response to a recent warning notice from the Pensions Regulator proposing to issue a financial support direction in relation to a major occupational pension scheme.
  • Acting for the trustees of the British Airways Pensions Scheme in defending a claim by the employer concerning RPI/CPI and the alleged invalidity of the scheme amendments and subsequent exercise of powers to grant discretionary increases and pension benefits.
  • Advising an interested party in relation to Hampshire v Pensions Protection Fund concerning Article 8 of the IORP Directive and the meaning and effect of the CJEU decisions in Robins and others v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Hogan and others v Minister for Social and Family Affairs as to the support required to be put in place in the event of the employer’s insolvency; whether this has direct effect in UK law; and as to its impact on the compensation cap on PPF benefits under UK pensions legislation.
  • Acting for the trustees of the Hewlett Packard pension plan in a claim by the employer for construction/rectification of scheme rules concerning the application of limited price indexation to additional voluntary contributions (compromised on terms approved by the court).
  • Acting for the defendant to a multi-million pound claim by The Pensions Regulator in respect of alleged pensions liberation and alleged misuse of assets: this raised issues considered in Pi Consulting (Trustee Services) Ltd v The Pensions Regulator  as to the nature and requirements of an occupational pension scheme.
  • Acting for the representative beneficiary to an application for Beddoe directions by the trustee appointed by The Pensions Regulator to occupational pension schemes on grounds of alleged breach of trust and improper investment (Dalriada Trustees Ltd v Gwilliam (unreported) and Dalriada Trustees Ltd v Woodward and Others).
  • Acting for the successful employer in an AGCO  claim concerning the construction and effect of early retirement provisions of the Kingston Communications defined benefit scheme (Akester & Ors v Kingston Communications plc & Others).
  • Acting for an employer successfully resisting an employee’s claim for revaluation of pension benefit notwithstanding its augmentation by reference to his normal retirement age under a compromise agreement (Davidson v Arla Foods UK Ltd and Trustees of Express Pension Scheme).
  • Advising former employers in relation to liability for contributions under the Merchant Navy Pension Scheme (Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund v FT Everard & Sons Ltd and Others).
  • Advising employers in a multi-employer scheme concerning a regulated apportionment arrangement and negotiations with the PPF and The Pensions Regulator.
  • Acting for the representative member in an employer’s claim for construction/rectification of scheme rules to pensionable remuneration: Redrow & Others v Pedley & Ors: a leading case on estoppel. In addition to advising trustees and employers frequently on scheme amendment and estoppel issues, Thomas has made this the subject of specialist papers to the APL and practical law papers and articles.
  • Acting for the trustee in the leading case concerning preservation rights and unfunded occupational pension schemes (Royal Masonic Hospital v Pensions Ombudsman).
  • Acting in a leading case concerning the validity and effect of scheme forfeiture provisions (Re Scientific Investment Corporation).
  • Acting for the trustee in a case establishing that the trustee had no duty to disclose reasons for adopting a particular method of allocation surplus on a bulk transfer (Wilson v Law Debenture Trust Corporation plc).
  • Acting for the independent trustee in a case concerning the meaning and application of regulations concerning independent trustees (Denny v Yeldon).
  • Advising and acting for the employer in relation to a defined benefit scheme established in the 1970’s, subject to a series of governing instruments, raising numerous and complex issues of formal validity; the application of equity and estoppel; and further issues of construction and rectification for mistake.