Here is our weekly summary of key legal and regulatory developments relevant to occupational pension schemes that you might have missed, with links for further information.
King Charles III delivered his speech at the opening of Parliament yesterday. There had been speculation that the king would announce a pensions bill, in view of the number of pensions reform proposals that would require primary legislation (including the Mansion House reforms). However, the king did not mention a pensions bill.
The Pensions Dashboards Programme (PDP) has issued its eighth update report, and there is certainly a lot of work going on behind the scenes with several industry groups and forums. In a recent webinar, PDP said that we can expect the Department for Work and Pensions to start engaging with the pensions industry this month on the new connection deadlines guidance.
The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has published a helpful determination in relation to the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Conditions for Transfers) Regulations 2021. TPO considered whether it was reasonable for the pension trustee to determine that an amber flag was present on a transfer request where the receiving scheme included overseas investments. The member had complained that the consequent requirement to seek guidance from MoneyHelper was unnecessary in the circumstances and that the delay in making the transfer had caused him loss. TPO considered the facts of the matter, noted the differing views within the industry, including that The Pensions Regulator (TPR) had amended its guidance on the topic, and decided that the trustee had not acted unreasonably in treating an amber flag as present in relation to the proposed transfer.
In a recent decision of the court of appeal, it was decided that TPO is not a "competent court". This related to the recovery of overpayments of benefits and it clarifies how section 91(6) of the Pensions Act 1995 operates in order for trustees to be able to set-off overpayments of past benefits against future benefit payments. The decision does not mean that TPO's determinations in relation to recoupment of benefits are not binding, merely that the process for pursuing a recoupment under section 91(6) involves an extra stage, which would not be necessary if a matter were being heard in the county court. TPO says that it is considering this decision and will provide an update shortly.
Clara-Pensions has announced its first superfund transaction, making it the first transfer of defined benefit pension scheme members to a superfund in the UK. Clara will provide an additional £30 million of ringfenced funds for members of the transferring scheme and the transaction has received clearance from TPR.
TPR has published a speech delivered by Nausicaa Delfas, chief executive of TPR, at the launch of a new Pensions Policy Institute report on what we can learn from the approaches of other countries on accessing defined contribution (DC) savings. TPR highlights five principles for how DC decumulation should evolve (in terms of decumulation options and how to support pension savers) and it plans to engage with the pensions industry through a series of virtual roundtables early in 2024. This builds on recent government consultations.
Last week, our Pensions Life Hack addressed the importance of considering quorum requirements for in-person, virtual and hybrid trustee meetings. Look out for the next in our series, which looks at some practical issues around changing service providers.
If you would like specific advice on any of these issues or on anything else, please contact a member of our Pensions team.