Pensions and Employee Benefits

The Practice

Arthur Cox’s Pensions Group is one of the leading specialist teams in the Irish pensions sector. The Group has considerable experience providing advice on all aspects of pensions law to a wide range of corporate clients, public sector and former public sector clients, pension scheme trustees and scheme members.

Our practice involves advising on legal issues that relate to the establishment and operation of occupational pension schemes, providing advice on establishing trusts and the provision of legal advice to the trustees, and also dealing with the pensions aspects of commercial transactions. The Group provides the full range of pension advices including advices on scheme design, scheme set up, scheme administration, scheme mergers and winding ups. In addition, the Group advises on the pension aspects of mergers and acquisitions including the conduct of due diligence, the negotiation of related warranties and the merging or de-merging of pension schemes. We also advise employers and trustees generally on all regulatory and compliance aspects of pension scheme administration including the handling of complaints and Pensions Authority enquiries and investigations. The Pensions Group works closely on a day to day basis with the Employment Group, which itself is recognised as a leading specialist team.

Expertise

As a firm we believe in providing pragmatic business-centred advice. The Pensions Group focuses on providing clear and concise advice.

Our Pensions Group’s work is primarily in two well-defined areas:

  • Advising trustees and employers on day to day pension scheme issues
  • Dealing with the pensions aspects of commercial transactions

We advise trustees and companies on the full range of issues in relation to all aspects of occupational pension provisions, including:

  • Administration and governance of schemes
  • Interpretation of trust deeds
  • Amendment to schemes
  • Conversion from defined benefit to defined contribution
  • Accounting issues and FRS17
  • Family law pensions issues (divorce orders)
  • Pensions litigation and dispute resolution (including Pensions Ombudsman claims)
  • Investment management and custody agreements
  • Winding up of schemes
  • Pensions Authority investigations
  • Documentation review services
  • Customised trustee training
  • Pensions Acts 1990-2002 and related Regulations
  • Pensions aspects of mergers and acquisitions
  • Revenue queries
  • Trust law issues
  • Scheme transfers, mergers and reorganisations

Scheme Administration and Governance

We advise on a range of issues dealing with scheme administration and governance issues on a day to day basis. These include advising in relation to administration agreements, death benefit queries, queries relating to member’s benefits (including on benefit calculations, augmentations or payment of benefits). We advise regularly on the correct interpretation of scheme trust deeds and in relation to proposed amendments to schemes and other documentation issues.

Scheme Reorganisations

We advise on proposals to merge schemes and the ways in which the reorganisation of schemes can be most effectively achieved. In a related area, we frequently advise on the winding up of pensions schemes, advising in relation to the correct distribution of the trust monies in accordance with the provisions of the trust deed and rules, and the requirements of the Pensions Acts 1990-2002. We have also advised on proposed conversions from defined benefit to defined contribution pension provision for various clients and on the implications of the eligibility requirements under the Pensions Act for the purposes of considering whether an employer is required to provide a personal retirement savings account (PRSA) for “excluded employees”.

Documentation / Scheme Amendment Review

We prepare all aspects of scheme documentation for clients. For those clients who use a one-stop insurance house for pensions we can provide a review of standard documentation. We regularly audit third party standard documents for regulatory compliance and consistency with existing and previous client documentation.

Litigation and Dispute Resolution

We advise companies and trustees (and occasionally members) in relation to pensions disputes. We advise clients in relation to matters under investigation by the Pensions Authority and the Pensions Ombudsman.

Investment Management and Custody

We advise trustees and companies about agreements with investment managers in relation to the management of pensions fund assets and on the custody agreements for such assets.

Commercial

In addition to the above specialist services, as market leader in the corporate legal services sector in Ireland, we advise our clients on all corporate and commercial issues, banking and financial transactions and any tax and property matters that may arise. In relation to corporate mergers and acquisitions, we provide pensions due diligence services and the Pensions Group works closely with its commercial colleagues to ensure that the pensions schemes are dealt with appropriately in relation to such transactions.

Experience

The Group acts for a wide range of pension schemes from large industry wide schemes to small individual customised arrangements. The Group also acts for schemes of some of the major employers in Ireland and acts for a number of commercial State and public sector schemes, and as a result we encounter the full range of pension issues. The main bulk of our clients are occupational pension schemes, in relation to which we advise both Employers and Trustees.

Key projects in which the Pensions Group have been involved in recent times include the following:

  • Advice to a leading major financial institution on all aspects of a significant rationalisation of their pension arrangements.
  • Advice to another major institution on their pension scheme benefits and the possible switching from a defined benefit to defined contribution structure.
  • Advice on the pension aspects of all the major Irish corporate transactions over the last number of years.
  • Ongoing involvement in a number of major litigation matters regarding pension scheme administration.

Pensions and Employee Benefits Northern Ireland