Fighting for Pensions Justice in UK Higher Education

by Academics for Pension Justice

Fighting for Pensions Justice in UK Higher Education

by Academics for Pension Justice
Academics for Pension Justice
Led by Dr Ruth Stirton, Professors Alastair Hudson, Lindsay Stirton, T.T. Arvind and Nicky Priaulx, we are working with a network of academics to pursue justice for all USS members.
Funded
on 15th March 2018
£50,967
pledged by 1958 people
Academics for Pension Justice
Led by Dr Ruth Stirton, Professors Alastair Hudson, Lindsay Stirton, T.T. Arvind and Nicky Priaulx, we are working with a network of academics to pursue justice for all USS members.

Latest: April 18, 2018

Information Request to USS Trustees

Concerns about whether the USS valuation methodology meets technical actuarial standards have been articulated by numerous financial experts in the higher education sector for several years now. Ex...

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We invite contributions to a crowdfund for specialist legal advice about potential mismanagement by the Board of Trustees of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). As members of the USS pension scheme ourselves, we are disturbed at the way that the scheme has been managed and the alleged size of the deficit identified by the Trustees. On behalf of all USS members, we are seeking specialist legal advice about our rights against the trustees.

Pensions law is highly complex.  We need your support to help us raise £30,000 within the next few days to instruct a leading pensions QC.  They will advise about whether the actions and behaviour of USS Trustees may amount to a breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duties. Our campaign enhances the current UCU strike effort by highlighting fundamental concerns about USS governance and management.

The People Behind this Initiative 

This crowdfunding initiative is led by Dr Ruth Stirton (Sussex), Professor Alastair Hudson (Strathclyde), Professor Lindsay Stirton (Sussex), Professor T.T. Arvind (Newcastle) and Professor Nicky Priaulx (Cardiff).  We are supported by a broader network of experts from Universities across the UK with extensive expertise in economics, statistics, the law of equity and trusts, pensions law and labour law.

Why we are taking these steps 

We are united in pursuit of justice for all members of the USS pension scheme. It is unacceptable that staff in higher education face a future pension income on which they cannot afford to live. A University lecturer recently explained to his Vice-Chancellor how the proposed pensions changes would devastate his retirement income:

I have been a Lecturer for 15 years. I am a 40 year old married man. If the proposed changes to pensions go ahead, my pension will be cut from £20,000 per year to £8,000. University staff pay growth has been fixed at around 1% since 2009, reducing our incomes by 17% in real terms. By contrast, in 2014 the highest-paid executive at the USS received a 50% pay increase to £900,000. Currently, two USS staff earn more than £1 million per year.

Large numbers of economists and statisticians have asserted that the decimation of USS pensions is premised upon the construction of a ‘Phantom Deficit’. Calls are now being made, including by the Principal of the University of St Andrews, for "a review of the governance of USS, which has played a significant role in leading us to the current situation".

The USS Board of Trustees plans to end the Defined Benefit pension scheme and we believe their decision-making must be challenged using all available means. Strike action is important.  A complementary legal action will put concerns about mismanagement and governance on a fresh and urgent legal footing.

What is the legal advice we seek?

We will use funds raised to obtain a legal opinion from a leading barrister on whether the conduct of the USS Trustees complies with the legal duties they owe to the pension fund beneficiaries. The law imposes a number of requirements on pension trustees about how they should exercise their decision-making powers. It is an overriding principle that they must act in the interests of the beneficiaries of the pension fund.  Furthermore, pensions trustees must do so in a way that displays utmost loyalty to the beneficiaries – they do not simply owe duties to the employers. There are serious questions to be answered about the conduct of the USS Trustees. In particular, we are concerned about their uncompromisingly hard-line approach to de-risking, the flaws in their consultation, and their refusal to engage with suggested alternative approaches put forward by beneficiaries.

This makes it important to understand our position in law.  We want to identify the possibilities which pensions law offers us all, to control the behaviour of the USS Trustees.

Please Donate

Please donate to join our fight to preserve pensions that Higher Education staff can count on. Become part of this action and help us fight for pensions justice in USS.

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Update 1

Academics for Pension Justice

April 18, 2018

Information Request to USS Trustees

Concerns about whether the USS valuation methodology meets technical actuarial standards have been articulated by numerous financial experts in the higher education sector for several years now. Experts have also highlighted their concern with the corresponding lack of transparency on the part of USS and emphasise that for robust analysis and understanding of the valuation, disclosure of a range of information around the valuation will be critical. 

The Fighting for Pensions Justice in UK Higher Education Campaign, of which you are a critical part, is tackling these concerns head on. Last week our solicitors, Gordon Dadds, wrote to Professor Sir David Eastwood, chairman of the USS trustees. The letter gave Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd (USSL) 10 days to produce the full actuarial valuation and other associated reports that have not been shared with members of the scheme. The letter was copied to Frank Field MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Pensions, Guy Opperman MP, and the Financial Reporting Council

We are currently awaiting a response from Professor Sir David Eastwood. We will update you in the event of a response or any decision to take further action.

Want to read on? 

We will keep you updated with regular and brief progress reports on our CrowdJustice site. If you want a more detailed insight into what we are doing, and see updates around relevant news coverage, please visit us at the Academics for Pensions Justice website or follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ForPension/. You can read more about this particular development in a post entitled 'Information Request to USS Trustees'. 

Again, our thanks to you for your generous support which has made it possible for us to work together to fight for pensions justice. 

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