What happened in pensions in 2016: Part Two

clock • 5 min read

This year has been a busy one for the pensions industry. Professional Pensions looks at what happened between March and June

April

18 April - The Pensions Regulator (TPR) launches a consultation on a series of how to guides to help trustees implement its revised defined contribution (DC) code, due to come into force in July.

The six guides - designed to support the new shorter code and explain to trustees how they can demonstrate compliance with the law - set out what the regulator regards as the basic duties of a scheme to remain compliant.

25 April - High street retailer BHS goes into administration with a pension scheme deficit of approximately £570m

May

9 May - TPR's Lesley Titcomb and PPF's Alan Rubenstein appear in front of the Work and Pensions committee to answer questions on BHS. According to Titcomb, BHS pension trustees did not flag up concerns to the regulator about the sale to Retail Acquisitions.

It also transpired that it took 17 months for TPR to receive a scheme valuation plan from trustees at BHS in 2013. Trustees have a statutory 15 month period from the effective date within which to agree valuations with the scheme employer..

11 May - The trustees of the BHS pension schemes and Arcadia write to the Work and Pensions Committee accusing The Pensions Regulator of "misrepresenting facts" in oral evidence - a move that forced the watchdog to issue a clarification.

In a letter to the Work and Pensions Committee, seen by PP, the trustee chairman of the BHS Pension Schemes, Chris Martin, said the trustees wanted to clarify facts they believe were "misrepresented to the committee" by TPR chief executive Lesley Titcomb during her evidence on Monday.

Martin said: "Contrary to the implications given during the Oral Evidence Session, the trustees worked openly and collaboratively with the regulator since the Summer of 2014 when certain proposals were put forward to them in relation to the BHS schemes.

11 May - Halcrow Pension Scheme says it will announce plans for a liability management exercise after the High Court ruled a previous proposal was not legal. 

The trustees and sponsor have been trying to find a solution for the sustainable funding of its defined benefit scheme, which has substantial liabilities.

12 May - The government is considering changing the indexing of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) to make Tata Steel more attractive to potential buyers, according to reports.

According to the Financial Times, Business Secretary Sajid Javid is in discussions with unions and trustees to propose indexing the scheme's accrual rate to the consumer price index instead of the retail price index. The government estimates this would reduce the liabilities by around £2.5bn.

18 May - The Queen's speech announces a new Pensions Bill will strengthen master trust regulation and give The Pensions Regulator increased powers to police these schemes.

The measures contained in the new Pensions Bill include capping early exit charges, giving TPR more powers to police master trusts and beefing up protection for savers.

20 May - The Halcrow Pensioners Association (HPA) has warned it will resist any rescue plans for the defined benefit (DB) scheme that it deems unsatisfactory for members.

23 May - KPMG partner David Clarke tells the Work and Pensions Committee that BHS trustees did everything possible to make the buyer and seller understand the scale of the deficit at the time of the sale.

Clarke, who advised the trustees, said the trustees and advisers "did everything they could" under the regulatory framework.

27 May - PP reports the Work and Pensions Committee is to launch a probe into the long term viability of defined benefit schemes.

27 May - Government publishes proposals on how to keep the British Steel Pension Scheme out of the PPF while reducing its liabilities to make Tata Steel UK more attractive to buyers.

June

7 June - The Halcrow Pensioners Association (HPA) says TPR could have done more to help prevent the scheme's spiralling pension deficit.

TPR has been helping Halcrow's parent company CH2M find a way to sustainably fund The Halcrow Pension Scheme (HPS), which is reported to have a £600m deficit, so it can avoid the Pension Protection Fund PPF.

15 June - Sir Philip Green appears in front of the Work and Pensions committee to answer questions on BHS. He insists he was not in charge of the BHS pension scheme. He also criticised TPR for its lack of engagement, a claim TPR refuted.

15 June - CH2M has warned criticism from the Halcrow Pensioners Association (HPA) over its rescue plan for the Halcrow scheme goes against the best interests of members.

It follows CH2M's announcement of the proposed overhaul for the Halcrow Pension Scheme (HPS) whose sponsor Halcrow Group is unable to continue funding the liabilities. The parent company's plans to reduce members' benefits were rebuked by the HPA, which has correspondence with around 500 members.

23 June -EU Referendum results in a vote to leave the European Union. DB deficits jump £80bn overnight.

29 June - In a letter to the work and pensions committee TPR's Lesley Titcomb called for more powers for the regulator. She said more selective scrutiny of DB schemes, better use of technology and additional information gathering powers could enable the regulator to help schemes more.

30 June - PP reports that The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has issued its first fine over a scheme failing to prepare an annual governance statement signed by the chair of trustees.

The trustee of Abbey Manor Group Pension Scheme received the minimum mandatory £500 fine for being in breach of the law.

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