Why work with Shepherd and Wedderburn Pension lawyers? 

Our market-leading team of specialist pension lawyers is top ranked by the independent legal directories. We advise on all aspects of pensions law and regulation, and our reputation for technical excellence and pragmatic advice is recognised by clients and peers alike.

We are committed to building long-term, trusted relationships and providing an unparalleled level of service. Our advice is clear and pragmatic. Pensions law is increasingly complex and the regulatory landscape can be tricky to navigate, but we always offer solutions and we never sit on the fence.

With lawyers qualified in Scotland, England and Wales, we advise clients across the UK. We work closely with our colleagues in employment, tax and trusts, and can draw on a wide range of specialists with relevant expertise in areas such as data protection, litigation, funds and investments, and commercial contracts.

Our experience covers a broad range of clients and sectors, including trustees and employers of defined benefit and defined contribution pension schemes. We advise on all matters affecting pension schemes and sponsors, from scheme funding and corporate activity to member disputes and securing benefits. Our in-depth knowledge and market experience are second to none.

How can our pension solicitors help? 

Defined benefit pensions

It is more important than ever to ensure sponsoring employers and trustees of defined benefit (DB) pension schemes are supported in fulfilling their legal duties, managing their schemes and meeting the expectations of the Pensions Regulator. 

Our team has decades of experience working with trustees and employers of DB pension schemes of all sizes. We can draw on our in-depth understanding of the issues affecting DB schemes to provide a bespoke service, tailored to the needs of your scheme.

We offer a complete package of advice including:

  • Governance: in an increasingly regulated environment, we can help ensure your scheme is managed in line with the latest regulatory and case law requirements, guidance and industry standards.
  • Benefit issues: these often arise unexpectedly, whether after a review of scheme rules and practice or as a result of a change in case law or legislation. We are known for our expertise in equalisation issues and our pragmatic approach makes us ideally placed to guide schemes through the process of equalising guaranteed minimum pensions.
  • Scheme funding and security: we provide advice and frontline support on all aspects of scheme funding negotiations, balancing the latest legal and regulatory thinking with a pragmatic, ‘can do’ attitude. We offer advice on innovative funding solutions and mitigation packages, including PPF-compliant and commercial terms.
  • De-risking and scheme closures: we are experienced in all forms of benefit redesign and de-risking transactions. We offer clear, practical advice on moving through the buy-in and buy-out process.
Defined contribution pensions

An increased regulatory focus on defined contribution (DC) pensions has brought a raft of legislation and governance requirements, including the authorisation regime for DC master trusts. Together with the rollout of auto-enrolment and the introduction of pension flexibilities, the DC landscape has never looked more complex.

We have been working with employers and trustees of DC pension schemes for many years, supporting them in providing market-leading offerings for their employees, while managing the complexities and risks associated with DC pension provision. 

Whether you are facing challenges with your existing DC pension provision or are considering a switch to a DC master trust, we have the knowledge and market expertise to help. 

Our team offers a complete range of DC-related services covering:

  • Governance: we can advise on all aspects of DC governance including minimum quality standards, chairs’ statements, and employer and independent governance committees.
  • Benefits: we can guide you through the complexities of new scheme set-ups, tax issues, auto-enrolment requirements and pension flexibility.
  • Member communications and engagement: member communication is key. We can assist with member communication reviews (for compliance and best practice) and advise on disclosure requirements.
  • Master trusts: these are an attractive proposition for many employers looking for a cost-effective, well-run pensions solution. Trustees of master trusts also have specific needs and compliance obligations. We can advise on the set-up, registration and supervision of master trusts, review documentation and assist in negotiations for new entrants. 
Pension investments and ESG

Pension scheme investments are fundamental, and it is crucial to get the legal aspects right. From trustee and employer duties, to default funds, charges and climate change reporting, schemes need to know where the potential legal pitfalls lie and how to avoid them.

Our investment specialist lawyers advise on all legal matters relating to pension investments, whether for defined benefit or defined contribution pension schemes. We have a vast depth of experience in reviewing and negotiating all types of investment documentation, both standard form and bespoke.

The increased focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors has led to a significant shift in how schemes must approach their investments. We can assist you in reviewing your funds, processes and documentation to reflect the latest legal and regulatory requirements in relation to ESG, including reviewing implementation statements and advising on requirements for climate change reporting.

Corporate activity

Our team has decades of experience in advising trustees and sponsoring employers on the pensions implications of corporate change: acquisitions, mergers, disposals, restructurings and reorganisations, distressed sales and outsourcings. Over that time, we have seen how legislative and regulatory trends have repeatedly reshaped the legal backdrop and altered the expectations imposed on both employers and trustees.

Whether you are considering a corporate change and want to know more about the potential pensions implications or are unsure of the options available to you as a trustee, we can guide you through the legal implications.

We will assess the potential for regulatory action or enforcement, including criminal sanctions and notifiable events requirements, and advise on the best strategic approach.

Scheme restructuring, mergers and consolidation

As regulatory changes continue apace, many employers are streamlining and reducing ongoing costs by consolidating or transferring their pension schemes to third party vehicles.

Separately, the Pensions Regulator has encouraged trustees to remain open-minded about the benefits that consolidation may bring to scheme members through improved funding security and increased service efficiency.

Whether you are considering the option of merging or transferring your company pension schemes and looking for some initial strategic advice, or are concerned about your legal duties as the trustee of a merging or transferring scheme, our team is ready to assist. We can advise on feasibility and legal requirements, and guide schemes through implementation from start to finish.

Data protection and cyber security

Personal data is at the heart of occupational pensions. Work histories, member details and financial information are all essential to ensure the right benefits are paid to the right people.

It is vital that trustees meet the terms of the applicable data protection legislation, along with the obligations on how controllers handle personal data, and the Pensions Regulator’s cyber security policy requirements. 
Trustees and employers also have to grapple with the evolving cyber security environment, a technological and procedural ‘arms race’ in which they need to ensure they stay one step ahead of the threat.

Our pensions experts work closely with our specialist data protection colleagues to provide a uniquely tailored service to our pension scheme clients. We understand the threats schemes face and the layers of regulatory burden that apply. We have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through the requirements and put meaningful controls in place.

Member disputes

The complexity of pensions, together with increasing member engagement, means those involved in the operation of pension schemes regularly face complex member queries, complaints and claims. Such complaints can carry significant financial risk, as well as the potential for reputational damage and regulatory intervention.

With the growing threat of pension scams and the involvement of third parties in raising claims for inappropriate pension transfers, trustees have never been at greater risk.

Our team has considerable experience in advising on the appropriate response to such complaints and addressing any subsequent escalations to the Pensions Ombudsman or the courts. We can provide specialist input on a complaint or claim you have received, or assist you in taking action to redress the impact of an error by a third party.

We offer a complete range of services covering dispute prevention, advising on all aspects of internal dispute resolution procedures, and managing engagement with the Pensions Ombudsman.

Pensions litigation

Our ability to identify, understand and advise on pensions-related disputes is a key element of our service to clients.

The cost and complexity of UK pension schemes has led to a growing number of legal disputes in recent years. Such disputes cover a wide variety of issues, ranging from historic problems in mature pension schemes, such as equalisation and scheme amendment powers, to those arising from investment complexities or risk reduction measures and associated employment duties.

We work closely with colleagues in our pensions litigation team to advise on and manage high value and innovative court actions. We regularly call upon our wealth of pensions knowledge and experience, and combine this with a detailed understanding of court procedure and case law across the UK, to achieve positive outcomes for our clients.

Public sector pensions

We have extensive experience of advising on public sector pension issues for clients in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. We have particular expertise in outsourcing former public sector employees and implementing the Fair Deal policy, and in advising on admission agreements and contractual arrangements

We are leading experts in pensions for privatised industries, including the protected persons requirements in the electricity supply and distribution industry.

Group life assurance schemes

Death in service cover is a key employee benefit. While in the past this might traditionally have been provided as part of an occupational pension scheme, scheme closures mean employers must look for alternative, tax-efficient solutions. 

We are experienced in advising on options for both registered and excepted group life schemes. We can provide bespoke documentation or tailor insurance provider styles to your needs, and advise on all legal aspects of implementation and scheme management.

  • The standard of service is so high that I genuinely struggle to find ways to improve on the service we receive.

  • They have a very good command of their subject but are also very approachable and user-friendly. They are good at making complexity palatable and working as a team.

  • Shepherd and Wedderburn is known for being "fast, responsive and proactive, with no waffle', and for possessing 'great business acumen as well as empathy with people".

  • Technically extremely able, cohesive and highly responsive team who are strong advisers, good on both the detail and the strategic view, and lovely people to work with. 

  • We felt the level of service provided was unsurpassed.

  • Shepherd & Wedderburn’s Scottish pension team is the best I have worked with. Their depth of knowledge and experience combined with their breadth of staff and resourcing is excellent. They are my ‘go-to’ pensions team.

Experience

Advising trustees on the equalisation of guaranteed minimum pensions through a range of approaches, including advice on GMP conversion, equalisation of historic transfers and pensions tax implications.
Advising on the legal aspects of defined benefit scheme restructuring and related guarantee provision, including active engagement with the Pensions Regulator.
Advising trustees on a sponsoring employer’s sale of a business division, including the negotiation of a package of mitigation and special terms for affected members.
Acting for a corporate group in relation to the merger of its five legacy defined benefit schemes into a single, segregated scheme with over £500 million of combined assets
Advising on a breach by a service provider affecting a cohort of members, including a review of corrective member communications, compensation arrangements and settlement of costs with the service provider.
Acting for trustees in the successful recovery of historic pension overpayments following a member’s death.
Coordinating and leading data protection compliance projects across a range of clients and scheme sizes, in the public and private sectors, including drafting data protection policies, privacy notices and other governance documentation, and active involvement in data breach response teams.