Lehman Brothers UK Pension Strikes Funding Deal

An agreement between the failed bank and its pension means members will not face having their benefits capped.

The UK’s Pensions Regulator has hammered out a deal between Lehman Brothers and its UK pension to secure funding and stop it from falling into the lifeboat Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

Six entities responsible for the funding of the Lehman Brothers UK pension will stump up for a full buyout of the fund, including plugging an estimated deficit of £184 million. It is the biggest settlement arranged by the regulator since it was established in 2005 and brings to an end six years of legal battles between it, trustees, and the Lehman Brothers group.

International investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September 2008 in what became a watershed moment in the global financial crisis. The UK company, Lehman Brothers Limited, was also placed into administration, leaving a defined benefit pension with a funding deficit, estimated to be £184 million as of June this year. Prior to the bankruptcy the pension had been supported “with a viable recovery plan”, the regulator said.

“This case demonstrates that the regulator’s anti-avoidance powers can be used effectively, even in highly complex international insolvency situations.”—Stephen Soper, interim chief executive of the Pensions Regulator.The Pensions Regulator immediately launched an investigation into the impact on the pension and in May 2010 took action by “seeking the issue of a financial support direction (FSD) to certain members of the Lehman Brothers Group in support” of the fund.

The warning notice issued by the regulator initially sought to hold 44 companies within the Lehman group to account for the funding of the pension, but this was reduced to just six in September 2010. After a number of challenges to this ruling—including a decision by the Supreme Court that FSDs should not outrank other creditors of bankrupt companies—the six companies have agreed to settle. If the pension had gone into the PPF, many members would have seen their benefits reduced and subject to a cap of £36,000 a year.

Stephen Soper, interim chief executive of the Pensions Regulator, said the agreement showed “we will not hesitate to pursue regulatory action to protect members’ benefits and PPF levy payers where we believe it is appropriate”.
He added: “The regulator has increasingly been required to engage its anti-avoidance powers to secure the retirement benefits of members and protect the PPF. This case demonstrates that the regulator’s anti-avoidance powers can be used effectively, even in highly complex international insolvency situations.”

Tony Lomas, joint administrator of Lehman Brothers International (Europe) and a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the conclusion of the case was “another milestone on the path to resolving the administration of [Lehman Brothers]”.

“The agreement benefits LBIE’s creditors by securing significant contributions to the cost of the settlement from other Lehman group companies, and alleviates concerns for pension scheme members about the provision of their pension benefits,” he said.
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