This landmark pension case could mean big payouts

Defined-benefit members in bankrupt firms’ pension schemes could be due a payout after a landmark High Court judgment.

Several thousand high-earning savers could be in line for compensation after a landmark High Court judgment that Pension Protection Fund (PPF) rules amount to age discrimination.

The dispute centres on the retirement incomes paid by the PPF, the industry lifeboat scheme, to members of defined-benefit pension schemes when their employers go bust. The PPF guarantees that members who have reached retirement age and begun drawing their pension will not lose any benefits. But for those yet to reach retirement age, there is a cap on the payout: around £41,400 for savers aged 65.

A dramatic impact

Since most pensions do not exceed this cap, few people are affected. But for higher earners with substantial pension entitlements, the effect can be dramatic. In one case considered by the High Court, a pilot saw his expected pension fall by 75% from £66,000 a year to just £17,000. Now, however, the High Court has ruled the PPF cannot legally apply a cap to younger savers that older savers do not face. So savers whose benefits transferred to the PPF before they reached the normal pension age for their scheme should now receive their pension entitlement with no cap applied. Savers hit by the cap who have already begun receiving smaller pensions will be entitled to back payments of the income they have missed out on – although these will be limited to six years’ benefits.

The judgment won’t be implemented straight away, with the PPF and the Department for Work and Pensions considering an appeal. The PPF believes the ruling will cost it around £240m. It could also prompt further claims from PPF members unhappy about another age-related rule. Anyone transferring to the PPF before their scheme’s retirement age only receives 90% of their expected pension, irrespective of the size of their entitlement. A challenge to the 90% limit – not considered by the High Court in this case – on age-discrimination grounds could prove even more expensive for the PPF. It could lead to increased benefits for everyone who has transferred to the scheme before reaching their scheme pension age – more than 100,000 savers.

One other issue is high earners who transferred out of their pension scheme because they were worried their employer might go bust and their PPF benefits would be capped. The Financial Conduct Authority, the City regulator, says independent financial advisers should not base advice to savers on the possible insolvency of their employer or the PPF limits. Savers may now be able to bring a case against their adviser if they suggested transferring for this reason.

Recommended

Which companies will lose the most from the energy windfall tax?
Energy stocks

Which companies will lose the most from the energy windfall tax?

The government’s new energy windfall tax has muddied the waters for investors and companies alike. Rupert Hargreaves explains how it might affect some…
27 May 2022
The MoneyWeek Podcast with Russell Napier at the Library of Mistakes
Investment strategy

The MoneyWeek Podcast with Russell Napier at the Library of Mistakes

Merryn talks to Russell Napier about Edinburgh’s Library of Mistakes, the age of debt and financial repression, plus why he has never invested in Chin…
27 May 2022
Cryptocurrency roundup: another torrid week for crypto
Bitcoin & crypto

Cryptocurrency roundup: another torrid week for crypto

Cryptocurrencies suffered yet another intense week. Saloni Sardana rounds up the week's crypto news.
27 May 2022
Ocado faces a “crunch” year – should you buy or avoid?
Share tips

Ocado faces a “crunch” year – should you buy or avoid?

Ocado was one of the big winners from the pandemic as customers moved online. But now it’s struggling, and losses are growing. So, asks Rupert Hargrea…
27 May 2022

Most Popular

The world’s hottest housing markets are faltering – is the UK next?
House prices

The world’s hottest housing markets are faltering – is the UK next?

As interest rates rise, house prices in the world’s most overpriced markets are starting to fall. The UK’s turn will come, says John Stepek. But will …
23 May 2022
The Federal Reserve wants markets to fall – here’s what that means for investors
Stockmarkets

The Federal Reserve wants markets to fall – here’s what that means for investors

The Federal Reserve’s primary mandate is to keep inflation down, and lower asset prices help with that. So, asks Dominic Frisby – just how low will st…
25 May 2022
Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has fallen hard. But is now the time to buy?
Investment trusts

Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has fallen hard. But is now the time to buy?

After a spectacular couple of decades, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has fallen by almost 45% so far this year. Rupert Hargreaves asks if no…
26 May 2022