TPR investigates USS whistleblower claims

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is investigating claims from a trustee that her efforts to find out whether the deficit of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) was exaggerated were blocked.

First reported in the Financial Times, Jane Hutton claimed that the USS impeded her from investigating the scheme’s £7.5bn deficit reported in November 2017, which may have prompted the universities to suggest closing the DB scheme.

Hutton said that she had concerns that there was an error in the way retirement rates were calculated, which could have inflated costs as it was assumed that members retired earlier than they did.

This may have been used to justify the suggestion of transferring DB scheme members into a DC pension scheme, which caused widespread protests in 2017 and 2018, and Hutton claimed that she may have been obstructed in her investigation.

USS trustee board non-executive director, Hutton, told the Financial Times: “My attempts to undertake my fiduciary duties as a trustee, to investigate concerns I had about the valuation, and to challenge advisers, met with repeated delays.

“I suspect the deficit has been substantially overestimated.”

She said that she informed the trustee board of her concerns in July 2017 and claimed that. in November 2017, trustee board chair, David Eastwood, told USS group chief executive, Bill Galvin, to put dealing with her data provision requests on hold until the panel had discussed it.

Hutton formally raised the issues with TPR and the Financial Reporting Council in March 2018.

The USS told the Financial Times: “The trustee company takes any concerns raised by directors very seriously and seeks to address them in accordance with best practice.

“No material issues have been raised by any of the independent experts engaged by the trustee in either carrying out or reviewing the 2017 valuation.”

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