ITV receives £133m warning notice from TPR over Box Clever scheme

ITV has received a warning notice from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) in relation to the Box Clever Group Pension Scheme for the amount of £133m, the television network’s Q1 2022 trading update has revealed.

In March 2020, ITV lost a legal challenge against TPR over the regulator’s use of anti-avoidance powers and was given a six-month deadline to put financial support in place for the Box Clever scheme.

ITV submitted an initial offer of £31m to TPR in August 2020 to reach a settlement, then increased its provision to £52m.

In its 2021 annual report, ITV noted that if TPR did not accept the increased provision then it may issue a warning notice, which has now been issued.

The most recent estimate of the Box Clever Group Pension Scheme deficit was £110m on a buyout basis, as at 30 April 2020, while the scheme was estimated to have had a deficit on a buyout basis of £25m in 2003.

ITV said its view on the matter remained the same as its 2021 annual report, which stated: “Both of these valuations were of the whole scheme, encompassing liabilities in respect of former employees of Granada's joint venture partner, Thorn, as well as former employees of the group.

“Given the significant number of undecided issues as to the quantum and form of financial support, the group will strongly contest any attempt to impose liability in an amount the directors consider unreasonable.

“The directors continue to believe there are many important factors, that need to be taken into account in any decision, and therefore there remains a great deal of uncertainty around the quantum and form of financial support to be provided.”

In its Q1 2022 update, ITV said that it will continue to engage with TPR to resolve the matter.

A TPR spokesperson commented: “The deadline we set ITV to provide reasonable financial support for the Box Clever Pension Scheme in response to the Financial Support Directions issued to them passed on 17 September 2020. Whilst they did submit an offer, we rejected it because we did not consider it provided reasonable support to the scheme.

“We have now issued a Warning Notice seeking Contribution Notices against ITV and four related entities. These Contribution Notices would see cash paid into the scheme to pay member benefits.

“We will not be commenting further on the matter at the moment.”

The Box Clever pension scheme was formed in 2000 as part of a merger between ITV (then Granada) and Carmelite.

Employees were transferred to the new company and enrolled into the new pension scheme.

Following the scheme’s collapse TPR opened an anti-avoidance investigation, as ITV extracted “significant value from the joint venture”, the regulator said at the time.

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