USS comfortable High Court challenge has 'absolutely no merit'

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) has said that it is “comfortable” that the legal challenge recently brought to the High Court by university academics has “absolutely no merit”.

University academics recently issued proceedings in the High Court against the USS in light of concerns about the scheme's 2020 valuation process and its continued investment in fossil fuels.

Commenting in response to this, however, a USS spokesperson said: “Nothing in the legal papers served on the trustee or otherwise justifies such a step, so we are comfortable that the challenge – whether in respect of the valuation, expenses or investment – has absolutely no merit.

“In the interests of USS members, the trustee will ask the High Court to refuse permission and thus avoid wasted costs for members and the scheme.”

The USS acknowledged member concerns and admitted that “not all members agree with the valuation decisions [it has] taken, as trustee”, also accepting that discussions at the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) have been “difficult”

However, the trustee clarified that these "hard decisions have been made balancing the interests of all USS members (pensioners, dependants, members who have left but not yet taken their benefits, and active members), after extensive debate and with the benefit of appropriate expert advice".

In addition to this, the trustee noted that the price of promising a set, inflation-protected income for life in retirement is much more expensive than in the past, pointing out that this is "as true for USS as it is for other defined benefit (DB) pension schemes".

The USS spokesperson stated: “Our primary legal duty as trustee is to protect the benefits promised to USS members. The JNC decides what benefits are provided, and how the contributions required to fund them are shared between members and employers.”

"The JNC’s proposals respond to the challenges presented by long-term economic and demographic trends by slowing the pace at which USS pension promises build up in future.

"Its proposals put the scheme on a more sustainable footing for the long-term and secure the future of this rare and valuable scheme in a way that is affordable to members and employers.”

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