The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and television broadcasting organisation ITV are appearing at the Upper Tribunal this week to begin the hearing for its long-running pensions anti-avoidance dispute.
The hearing, ITV and others v The Pensions Regulator, commenced on Monday 29 January 2018 at The Rolls Building, London, and is expected to last for two weeks. The case concerns TPR’s decision to undertake anti-avoidance action in December 2011 regarding Box Clever Group Pension Scheme.
Box Clever, which was formed in 2000, was the result of a merger between television rental organisations Granada (now ITV) and Thorn, now known as Carmelite. Prior to the organisation’s collapse, employees affected by the merger were transferred into a Box Clever pension scheme when they moved to the new organisation. This was to ensure that staff received the same benefits they would have gained from their previous pension arrangements. The Box Clever pension scheme currently has approximately 2,800 members, and a buy-out deficit of over £90 million.
TPR opened anti-avoidance action in December 2011, to issue financial support directions (FSD) to five organisations that form part of the ITV Group. The FSDs required the organisations to propose how they would financially support the Box Clever pension scheme.
ITV originally referred to the Upper Tribunal in January 2012 to question TPR’s determination to issue FSDs in this instance. The broadcasting organisation then challenged TPR’s ability to submit additional evidence to the anti-avoidance case in 2013. Both the Court of Appeal and the Upper Tribunal ruled in favour of TPR and refused ITV permission to appeal, with decisions announced in 2017 and 2016 respectively. This confirmed that TPR is not bound by the original case it presented to the Determinations Panel, but that it is entitled to raise matters not previously raised where a determination is referred to the Upper Tribunal.
The case, which will be heard by Mrs Justice Rose, Judge Herrington and Ian Abrams, is the first time an anti-avoidance case by TPR has been heard in full in the Upper Tribunal.