Newsletter No. 17
HALCROW PENSIONERS ASSOCIATION
Newsletter No 17 : May 2016
You have been sent this newsletter because you may be a member of the Halcrow Pension Scheme. If you are not a member then please use the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email to remove your name from the mailing list or email the webmaster at halcrowpensioners.org.uk to remove your name.
Proposed Alternative to HPS
The HPA has been informed by the Pensions Regulator through HPA's legal adviser that:
".... we have been in dialogue with the employer, CH2M and the Trustees as they have sought to identify a way forward for both the employer and the Scheme in light of the court's decision. Together with the PPF, we have reached an agreement on a solution which we believe equitably balances the interests of all of the parties."
"We understand that the employer and the Trustees will be writing to individual members shortly with further details on this matter. This will include an explanation of what this means for them and the decisions they will need to consider."
This letter confirms what we had suspected, namely that CH2M Hill is actively involved in the process. HPA has reason to believe that the offer which HPS members are likely to receive will not be substantially different from that outlined in the 2015 Court Judgement, namely terms similar to PPF compensation for most scheme members although some would receive better than PPF benefits (HPA's evaluation is here). As such, HPA finds the wording "equitably balances the interests of all the parties" surprising since the members of HPS would lose out substantially. It should not be forgotten that a representative of some of the pensioners argued, at the 2011 court hearing, that the pension scheme should receive the money being paid by CH2M Hill (as the Trustees had earlier argued in secret negotiations, before they had a change of heart and decided not to argue for this in Court). Neither the Pensions Regulator nor the HPS trustees attended the court hearing because they were satisfied with the provisions in CH2M's covenant.
HPA currently has no reason to believe that the proposed arrangement respects the covenant which CH2M Hill provided at the time of the purchase of Halcrow. Instead, CH2M Hill is using the apparent low profitability of the Halcrow companies as an excuse to persuade the authorities to accept a deal which is advantageous to the CH2M shareholders. HPA notes that as long ago as 2013, the CH2M Management was claiming that Halcrow was fully integrated into CH2M. Consequently, the accounts of the various CH2M subsidiaries is a paper exercise which may not reflect the real situation.
What is HPA Doing?
The HPA is in discussion with its legal advisor. It may be necessary to start legal procedings to ensure that the full facts relating to CH2M's purchase and subsequent integration of Halcrow are put before the court. HPA is also actively engaging with the press in order that the position of the HPS members is fairly covered. Previous press coverage had picked on the issue of the CH2M appearing to "save" the scheme from PPF without realising that the company had a covenant made at the time of purchasing Halcrow to support HPS. One new press article is here and you will have to rush down to the newsagents to read the rest of this.
The committee is also preparing background information which may be of use to both HPS members and other interested parties. A history of HPS is being assembled here and definitions of some of the financial terms is here (particularly relevant given the range of reported numbers for the scheme deficit). HPA has been contacted by John Ralfe who has been appointed as a specialist advisor to the Work and Pensions Select Committee which is looking at pensions regulation. This document which he recently submitted makes very interesting reading.
The HPA is concerned that scheme members ability to evaluate the true position of the HPS is hampered by the absence of the information that should have been supplied in the Valuation Reports for 2011 and 2014. The 2014 scheme report to members is also overdue. We consider that no pensioner should be obliged to chose between two unpleasant alternatives while information that might allow a better alternative is illegally withheld. We are therefore pressing for this information.
What should HPS Members Do?
Firstly, watch your mail for the offer from the HPS trustees and the company and watch out for any further news from HPA. We may need to call a Special General Meeting at short notice. Please also make sure that your piggy bank is replete in case there is a need to raise additional funds for court action although the committee is exploring other sources of funds.
Please Spread the Word About HPA
Given the current interesting situation, HPA wants to reach out to as many members of HPS as possible. The ongoing media campaign should help in enhancing awareness but please dredge through your individual memories and make all former colleagues who might have an interest in the Halcrow Pension Scheme aware of the current situation and of HPA's existence. HPA endeavours to represent all members of HPS, not just those in receipt of a pension.
If you haven't been with HPA from the start then you might be interested to browse through the previous newsletters. There is a full list here.