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From time to time, usually for perfectly legitimate commercial reasons, corporate pension arrangements come under review. Following such a review, there might be proposals from trustees or employers to amend, close, wind-up or merge schemes.
It is increasingly common for trustees and the sponsoring employers to be separately advised in relation to such proposals. So, a particular trustee board may need advice on a proposal to merge schemes. Alternatively, a company may need advice about restructuring its pension arrangements without exposure to intolerable 'debt on the employer' liabilities (the statutory obligation to top-up the pension fund assets in certain circumstances).
When new proposals come onto the table, trustees in particular need to be careful to ensure proper protection for scheme members. At the same time, they need to understand their ongoing relationship with the sponsoring company, which will have its own commercial objectives.
Very often, there is no need for trustees (or their advisers) to take a confrontational approach to discussions with the company. Polarised and extreme views can lead restructuring projects off-track, adding to the expense and the timescale. It is therefore important that the professional advisers have a clear grasp of the issues. If trustees and companies stay on the right path, it is more likely that constructive progress will be made, wherever that is possible.