UUK questioned over response to TPR accusation

Universities UK (UUK) has been questioned over its response to an accusation from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) that the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) had incorrectly communicated the regulator’s position on discount rates.

TPR said that it sent an e-mail to USS, urging it to “consider” correcting its wording on the way it described the regulators position, and accused the scheme of using the incorrect interpretation of TPR’s position to defend its stance on the scheme.

In a response, UUK said that it ensured that the correct position of the regulator on the discount rate was “communicated to employers on 14 January 2019 in an actuarial note from Aon”.

However, Birmingham University fellow, Nick Hardy stated on Twitter: “UUK pretend that they issued a retraction in the form of a note by their actuarial advisers, Aon. But the note doesn’t mention the TPR e-mail.

“It also doesn't repeat the email's corrections of USS. If anything, the note agrees with USS's false claims about TPR and upholds USS's consequent decision to reject some of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) proposals.”

He also asked why Aon was not challenging USS over the controversy and said that the response from UUK and the note from Aon did not consider the two key issues.

These are, according to Hardy, that the trustee may not have accepted the JEP findings has they not been “misled” about TPR, and that the trustee board should have been shown the correction on TPR’s position, but it was not.

Hardy warned: “We can't trust USS and UUK to interpret TPR correctly for us and we can't trust the decisions they make based on supposed TPR constraints.

“This isn't the first or the last time they've misled us about TPR. Next time your employer says: 'but the regulator!', be sceptical."

In response, a UUK spokesperson said: “Universities UK ensured that the correct position of the regulator on the discount rate was communicated to employers on 14 January 2019 in an actuarial note from Aon, which employers considered before responding to the USS consultation at the end of February.

“It would have been inappropriate for the note to reference a private and confidential email. Universities UK will always respect the confidential nature of such correspondence except when consent has been granted to share more widely.”

Aon said that they were unable to provide comment due to client confidentiality rules.

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