UK - Regulators have taken the unprecedented step of appointing an independent trustee at a solvent company.
OPRA appointed Law Debenture to the Sea-Land pension scheme against the wishes of the principal employer, the Maersk Company, which will have to pay the trustee’s costs.
Around 200 members of the Sea-Land Service Pension Plan face cuts of up to 60% in their pension entitlements following Maersk’s decision to put the scheme – which is only funded to the minimum funding requirement – into wind-up.
Sacker & Partners partner Ian Pittaway, who is acting for Sea-Land members on a pro-bono basis, said OPRA’s decision to appoint an independent to the trustee board of a solvent company was “radical and revolutionary”.
He added: “It was an interesting case for OPRA given the criticism of it being too reactive and not proactive. But it has risen to the challenge. The onus is now on the independent trustee to see if there is anything that can be done.”
Mark Tonge, one of the 21 members who submitted the application to OPRA, said: “We hope this is a catalyst for change to achieve a more reasonable outcome for the members of the scheme.”
Maersk said it was surprised by OPRA’s decision.
A spokeswoman added: “We do not yet know the reasons for this decision and are currently awaiting information.”
However, an OPRA spokeswoman stressed that the additional trustee would have “slightly restricted powers”.
She also said the decision of the determination committee was still open to review, and Maersk had the right to appeal.
*Sea-Land members have two separate claims being investigated by the pensions ombudsman over the conduct of the scheme’s trustees.
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