Slaughter and May acts for BT Pension Scheme Trustees in pensions litigation19 Jan 2018
Slaughter and May acted for BT Pension Scheme Trustees Limited (the “Trustee”), the largest private sector pension scheme in the UK, in the case of British Telecommunications Plc v BT Pension Scheme Trustees Limited and Linda Bruce-Watt (Representative Beneficiary), which was heard on an expedited basis in the High Court in December 2017.
The case concerned the interpretation of the BT Pension Scheme Rules, in particular BT’s ability to change the basis for calculating increases to pensions in payment from RPI to CPI (or another alternative index) for Section C Members of the Scheme. The proceedings were concerned with the questions of, among other things, which set of Scheme Rules applied and whether RPI had “become inappropriate” for the purposes of the relevant Scheme Rules. BT argued that RPI had “become inappropriate” and, therefore the company could, following consultation with the Trustee, switch away from RPI. The case had significant implications for pensioners because CPI is generally lower than RPI. The Representative Beneficiary argued that RPI had not “become inappropriate” under the relevant Scheme Rules. The Trustee sought clarity on all relevant issues so as to enable it to administer the pension increase entitlements of Section C Members of the Scheme with certainty.
On the primary issue, Mr Justice Zacaroli found in favour of the Representative Beneficiary, determining that the matters and events put forward by BT were not such as to have caused RPI to have “become inappropriate” for the purposes of the relevant Scheme Rules.
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