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Compromise approved in pension scheme equalisation dispute: Sogefi Filtration Ltd. v. Havard & Ors.

Keith Rowley KC and Henry Day acted on behalf of the claimant sponsoring employer, Sogefi Filtration Ltd, in proceedings concerning whether, following the decisions of the European Court of Justice in Barber v. Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Group [1991] 1 Q.B. 344 and Coloroll Pension Trustees Ltd. v. Russell [1995] All E.R. (EC) 23, male and female members’ normal retirement dates under two defined benefit occupational pension schemes had been equalised: Sogefi sought declarations as to the validity of certain amendments to the schemes and rectification of two scheme deeds.

Shortly before trial terms of compromise were agreed between Sogefi and the fifth defendant, Mr. Barker, a pensioner member of one of the schemes who had been joined as a representative beneficiary to represent the interests of all members opposed to Sogefi’s claim.

Sogefi and Mr. Barker applied to Court under CPR r.19.7(2) for orders that Mr. Barker be appointed as a representative beneficiary and that Sogefi be appointed to represent those members in whose interests it was for Sogefi to be granted the relief sought, and under CPR r.19.7(6) for approval of the compromise as being for the benefit of the represented members.

After hearing submissions and reading confidential opinions on the merits of the compromise from counsel for Sogefi and Mr. Barker, in a reserved judgment Amanda Tipples KC (sitting as a Judge of the Business and Property Division of the High Court) granted the parties’ applications. She departed from the practice commonly adopted on applications of this character by deciding that it was not necessary to sit in private so as to hear separately from the representative parties.

Distinguishing Smithson v Hamilton [2008] EWCA Civ 996 and Archer v Travis Perkins Plc [2014] EWHC 1362 (Ch), the Judge also held, as submitted on behalf of Sogefi, that there was no reason for notice to be given to former members who had transferred out of the schemes (who were not represented by Sogefi or Mr. Barker and whose rights were therefore not affected by the compromise) and that it was not appropriate for the order’s taking effect to be postponed pending notification to the schemes’ members (which would have defeated the purpose of the representation orders).

Further analysis of the case is available here.

Keith Rowley KC and Henry Day were instructed by Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP.