Between the 28th and 30th August I attended the International Pension & Employee Benefits Lawyers Association’s (IPEBLA) 18th International Conference in Amsterdam. It was fantastic to meet with lawyers from across multiple international jurisdictions to discuss trends and issues in pension law.
At the conference, I spoke as part of a panel on; “Your Employer is Bankrupt, now what? Developments in minimum levels of protection for DB pensions”. As part of this discussion, I covered the following key questions for a pension scheme whose sponsoring employer is soon to go insolvent:
- What steps can trustees take if they are informed of a sponsoring employer’s insolvency before the event?
- What happens to the pension scheme on insolvency?
- What are the Pension Regulator’s (TPR) ‘moral hazard powers’ and when might they be used?
I also discussed the international reach of TPR. The powers of TPR include, amongst others: gaining information under a section 72 notice; issuing contribution notices; and making financial support directions. We are supportive of the government and TPR in their use of these powers to protect the savings of pension scheme members.
To date there have been several cases of TPR using these powers internationally, however, this still remains a relatively untested area.
An interesting parallel is the case of SFO v KBR, in which the power of the SFO to enforce its power to request information under the Criminal Justice Act 1987 against overseas entities was not wholly supported by the Courts. Our colleagues Justin Briggs and Joelle Chess have commented on this case last year.
Justin and Joelle pointed out that TPR’s powers are granted under a different statutory regime to the SFO’s powers, meaning they may be more extensive in scope and could be applied extra-territorially. However, they also note that there is room for argument on this and TPR’s use of its powers internationally still remains untested in the courts.