Univar UK Ltd v Smith and Ors [2020] EWHC 1596 (Ch)

On 19 June 2020 judgment was given in Univar UK Ltd v Smith and Ors [2020] EWHC 1596 (Ch). Keith Rowley QC, instructed by DLA Piper (UK) LLP, acted for the Trustees of the Scheme.

The Principal Employer sought rectification of the Scheme’s Definitive Deed and Rules entered into in 2008 which expressly tied indexation and revaluation to RPI but which had, under earlier governing documentation, been statutory only. Rectification was granted because the Judge was satisfied there was no intention to change the Scheme’s benefit structure, notwithstanding that a number of the Trustees executed the 2008 Definitive Deed and Rules with knowledge of the terms of the new indexation and revaluation rules.

The case also raises subsidiary issues relating to estoppel, the decision in South West Trains Ltd v Wightman [1998] Pens LR 113 and members’ reliance on the defence of bona fide purchaser for value.

Heard over 12 days, Univar was the first full trial of a claim for rectification of the governing documentation of an occupational scheme since Re IBM Pension Plan [2012] Pens LR 469, and the first reported judgment of a High Court Judge in the pensions field since the Court of Appeal’s decision in FSHC Group Holdings Ltd v GLAS Trust Corporation Ltd. [2020] 2 WLR 429. The trial included extensive cross-examination over eight days of seven surviving Trustees who were parties to the 2008 Definitive Deed and Rules, the relevant decision-makers at the Principal Employer and the legal and actuarial advisers.

The judgment can be found here.