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Legal changes that impose tighter regulation on the pensions industry have led to a major increase in pension scheme litigation, claims a leading lawyer in the field.
The appointment of a Pensions Ombudsman in 1990 and the introduction of the Pensions Act in 1995 were intended to redress the balance between pension fund management companies and pensioner holders, says Dibb Lupton Alsop pensions litigation partner Janet Legrand.
She says: "Our experience is that while it was hoped the legislation would enable disputes to be resolved quicker and more cheaply by avoiding the cost of going through the courts, the result has been to significantly increase the number of disputes.
"Over the last few years the number of cases reaching the courts has dramatically increased," she says.
The increase has been most evident in pension fund surpluses, she adds.
Lawyers and pensioners alike are hanging on the outcome of the National Grid and National Power cases, which are expected in two months time. The cases revolve around a £162m surplus in fund money.
The appeal court hearings will decide whether the money belongs to the companies or to the pensioners.
Legrand says that the judgment will set a precedent for all 20 groups of the Electricity Supply Pensions Scheme.