Academic staff pursuing USS trustees for 'negligence'

A group of academic staff is seeking to bring claims against Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) trustees and managers for negligence and discrimination.

The group, which is crowdfunding for £50,000 in order to bring the case to court, has demanded fair and sustainable pensions as it aims to halt USS attempts to close parts of the defined benefit (DB) element of the scheme.

It argued that USS trustees and managers had breached their duties with the proposals, arguing that a valuation from March 2020, when the Covid-related market dive was occurring, was being wrongly used to justify cuts to the scheme.

Additionally, the group stated that internal personal costs at USS had risen by 1,318 per cent since 2008, while external adviser costs had tripled and embedded asset manager fees had also risen been inflating.

The group argued that reversing these costs would raise “at least another £100m every year”.

It also claimed female scheme members were being discriminated against by arguing that USS had ignored the disproportionate impact that cuts to the DB element of the scheme would have on those with a longer life expectancy, who might need to make a defined contribution pot last over a longer period of time.

Furthermore, the group called for USS to take more action on climate change, calling for the scheme to help members avoid “massive climate risks from bankrupt fossil fuels” while also helping the planet.

The group’s statement continued: “We know that in November 2020, USS conducted a survey of members' views on divesting from fossil fuels and found a large majority of members were in favour.

“Fossil fuels are financially the worst performing assets, and they are burning our planet. But instead of divesting, the USS trustees and managers have failed to even publish the report. On the USS board are 5 trustees appointed solely by the existing board, and they come from JP Morgan, Citibank, HSBC and coal.”

USS said it was unable to comment when contacted by Pensions Age.

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