Halcrow Pensioners Association

Newsletter No. 18


 Newsletter No 18 : June 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 to remove your name.

The 29 May 2016 Company Letter to HPS Members

You should have all received (by post in UK, email if overseas) a letter from Halcrow Group Ltd which gives HPS members the choice of two new pension options:(B) the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) or (A) something which is, for many scheme members, only fractionally better than the PPF although it would be a significantly better deal for some scheme members such as those who would fall foul of the PPF cap. Scheme members have been given until 5th August 2016 to select one of these two options. If their response is not submitted by that deadline they will be automatically transferred to the PPF. The documentation with the letter explains at length how Option A is better than Option B but nowhere discusses the difference of either option compared to the current pensions scheme. The HPA committee considers that the proposals are a very poor deal for members of HPS although they may be an excellent deal  for the CH2M shareholders.

Given the paucity of background information which has been provided to scheme members it is difficult for them to determine whether either option is fair or reasonable. HPA has written to Mr Sam Hannis requesting additional information to be provided as a matter of urgency. The points raised in this letter are here. We understand that CH2M has told UK staff "CH2M will make a payment of £80m towards the pension scheme deficit and also provide a guarantee of £50m towards it too."

The Roadshows

Scheme members are invited to attend roadshows. These will provide an opportunity for HPA members to ensure that other scheme members are made aware of HPA's existence. Repeated requests to the trustees to inform HPS members about HPA have, so far, fallen on deaf ears.

JLT - The Advisors

It has been arranged by the company / trustee (note that the trustee is now singular) that a company called JLT Wealth Management has been appointed to provide impartial information to help scheme members with their decision making. It should, however, be noted that they are not an independent organisation in the context of the proposals and it is doubtful whether they are capable of giving the impartial advice as claimed in their letter. JLT (Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group) is the owner of ITS (Independent Trustees Services) of which the managing director, Chris Martin, is a company-appointed trustee of HPS. Reference to the ITS website reveals that one of ITS's skills is getting pensions schemes into PPF, another is managing conflicts of interest! Mr Martin has very recent experience of PPF as Chairman of the BHS trustees for which his company is reported to have earned about £250,000.

What is HPA Doing in Response to the Letter?

In addition to the letter to Mr Hannis noted above, the HPA has been in discussion with Martin Jenkins, and briefed him on developments, including the recent offer. The documents are now being reviewed by him and the barristers he had been in contact with, with a view to contesting the quality of information and analysis that has been provided. All concerned are aware of the need for swift action so that members of the HPS are not forced into a poorly informed choice between the lesser of two evils. We hope to be able to pursue the matter in a fully transparent manner, in contrast to the approach by others to date. Martin Jenkins has written on HPA's behalf to both Sackers (the trustee's solicitors) and the Pensions Regulator (tPR) to ask about the status of the legal arrangements that have been made with tPR and PPF. He has also assembled a powerful legal team which is now preparing an appropriate legal challenge to the letter of 31 May 2016.

We are also preparing a spreadsheet to help scheme members compare the two options on offer and also see the implications of either compared to the current HPS pension terms. The spreadsheet will be available to download from here once it is usable. Please alert the webmaster if you think you have encountered errors. The spreadsheet quantifies the potential lost income for individual members and also highlights the potential impact on widows who, statistically, are both younger and live longer than their husbands, particularly if the pension is substantially or totally based on pre-April 1997 contributions.

Request for Feedback

The HPA committee would appreciate feedback from members about the course of action that the committee is taking. You may either, if willing to go public, post your comments in this thread in the HPA forum or can privately email your comments to the webmaster. The feedback will help inform the committee and, we hope, demonstate that there is substantial support for the current approach.

Correspondence With HPS Trustees' Solicitors

The HPA's solicitor received a communication from the HPS Trustee's Solicitors which responded to some questions raised by HPA's solicitor but also questioned the accuracy of some comments made in Newsletter 17 and in the HPA forum. Read these extracts from the correspondence as they will help your understanding of some of the basic issues.

What should HPS Members Do?

An HPA member has kindly set up a Facebook page. The committee requests newsletter recipients with Facebook accounts help to raise awareness of that page because it may then come to the attention of some of the HPS members who are still unaware of HPA's existence. Can those with other social media accounts (LinkedIn, Twitter .... ) think of ways of spreading the word? HPA endeavours to represent all members of HPS, not just those in receipt of a pension and the current crisis presents an opportunity to resume contact with lost friends.

Please Spread the Word About HPA

Given the current challenging situation which has major implications for HPS members' future financial security, 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.

Previous Newsletters

If you haven't been with HPA from the start or want to remind yourself of previous events then you can browse through the previous newsletters for which there is a full list here.