Members of the Airways Pension Scheme (APS) have written to trustees demanding a meeting over why they have not yet decided whether to appeal the recent Court of Appeal judgment, PP can reveal.
The British Airways (BA) scheme's trustee board has been in receipt of more than 100 requisitions calling for the employer- and member-nominated trustee directors to "explain their actions to beneficiaries" over the decision's delay, after the judgment was handed down almost a month ago.
In the letter, members said: "It is impossible to understand why the trustee should have wished to keep its options open in the event of BA winning its case in the Court of Appeal… It is clearly in the best interests of the APS beneficiaries that the APS trustee should appeal.
"Not to appeal when permission to appeal has been granted would be a breach of trust with grave consequences. In addition, the wider implications for pension law need to be resolved."
The threat comes after the APS trustees in July lost a Court of Appeal case over whether the trustees were permitted to grant a 0.2% discretionary increase in the 2013/14 financial year, after they had previously won a High Court case in May last year.
The trustees have been given permission to appeal the case to the Supreme Court as a "protective step to keep our options open", but are now taking legal advice ahead of a 16 August deadline to confirm the appeal.
The members' meeting has been called for under rule 25, which allows for a meeting, or postal ballot, of members and pensioners to be convened when either BA or 100 members make such a request.
The trustee board is now required to give at least 35 days' notice of such a meeting, meaning it will take place after the trustees' decision has been made. PP understands an announcement of the meeting will be made on the scheme's website in due course.
In a circular to members urging members to send in letters, Association of British Airways Pensioners (ABAP) vice-chair and former APS trustee Mike Post pointed to an opinion piece for Professional Pensions where Stephenson Harwood partner Stephen Richards said the decision had "created uncertainty on the scope of seemingly explicit trustee powers".
Speaking to PP, Post added it had become more important to hold the trustees to account when considering a number of changes made to and by the trustee board.
"The reason for the beneficiaries' concern is that this is all taking place against a background of strategic manoeuvring and lack of transparency from the trustee board," he said.
These include BA replacing all six of its appointed trustees prior to the High Court hearing, including the independent chair, while few of the member-nominated trustees in place at the time of the decisions are still in post on the board.
The board has also changed to a corporate structure, thereby removing individual accountability of trustees, and ceased publication of minutes to interested members.
"Transparency has disappeared from the running of APS," Post continued. "More member meetings can be anticipated in the future."
Upon changing the board's structure, the APS trustees told members that most large schemes were now set up in this style and so the change was "to bring us in line with current practice". In addition, banks and investment companies would find the structure more efficient and effective and provide the scheme with the "best terms and opportunities that it enjoys at the moment", while it would also make it easier to attract and retain corporate trustee directors.
The APS trustees declined to comment, while BA had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.
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