Inclusion and Diversity

Brenda Carron – Pensions

After studying law in TCD and completing an LL.M. in the Netherlands, I started my traineeship with Arthur Cox. My second rotation took me to the Pensions Group.

Irish pension schemes are generally set up as trusts, with the potential for both employers and employees to make contributions to the trust fund. One of the interesting things about working in the pensions group is the variety of our clients and the diversity of problems on which we advise. An employer might seek advice on setting up a pension fund, or its obligations under an existing scheme. Trustees may need guidance on the scope of their powers under the terms of the trust deed, or on their duties to the members of the scheme. Where one company is acquiring another, we may be asked to evaluate the extent of the target company’s pension obligations.  In some cases a deficit in a pension scheme can be very significant when compared against the deal price.

Defined benefit schemes are a key issue – under these schemes a specified level of benefit, usually based on length of service and salary, is promised and while employees pay a small contribution towards their benefits the main cost falls on the employer.  With the fall in equity markets in recent years as well as high annuity rates and people living longer, defined benefit schemes have become much more costly to run and as a result many employers have taken steps to reduce benefits under these schemes in order to reduce their costs.  The Pensions Group advises employers, trustees and scheme members on all aspects of introducing such changes.

As a trainee, I have accompanied the partners to client meetings, helped to prepare advice for clients, been involved in preparing for litigation and assisted in amending the trust deed and rules of a pension a scheme. Practising as a pensions lawyer involves understanding trust and employment law, keeping up to date with Revenue requirements and knowing the regulatory rules to which pension schemes are subject and I have done a substantial amount of legal research on all of these areas of law.