Who are Academics for Pension Justice?
Academics for Pension Justice is an unincorporated association of five academics and Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) members: Dr Ruth Stirton, Professor Alastair Hudson, Professor Lindsay Stirton, Professor TT Arvind and Professor Nicky Priaulx. If you are interested, you can read our association rules.
Our work supported by a broader network of experts from Universities across the UK with extensive expertise in economics, statistics, the law of equity and trusts, pensions law and labour law.
Is this connected to the UCU industrial action?
No. We are acting completely independently of the UCU (although we are all UCU members). We are taking this action as beneficiaries of the USS Pension Trust.
I am a member of university professional services staff, and a USS member. What about me?
We are undertaking this advice on behalf of all beneficiaries, whatever their role, and whatever their organisation. Trustees have a duty to act even-handedly between different classes of beneficiaries, and we aim to ensure compliance with this duty. We are called Academics for Pension Justice only because the founders are academic lawyers.
I am a Vice Chancellor, or member of senior management team. What about me?
We are undertaking this advice on behalf of all USS beneficiaries, whatever their role or position. As a leader in the academic sector, we understand that you are concerned to see that the main pensions scheme for the sector is well governed, and our action is directed towards that end. We hope and expect that we can count on your support in this action.
Tell me about the CrowdJustice Campaign. What are you going to do with the money you raised?
We will be using the funds to pay for top-flight legal advice from a leading QC as to the lawfulness of USS Trustees conduct. We are seeking advice, in particular, in relation to the approach to de-risking taken by the Trustees, into what we believe are critical flaws in the consultation undertaken with employers, and with their refusal to engage with suggested alternative approaches put forward by beneficiaries. We also want to see that any reforms of the USS scheme are even-handed as between different classes of beneficiaries – as between men and women, for example. The advice will cover potential breaches of pensions law by USS Trustees, and the scope for a legal challenge.
What are the legal duties of the USS Trustees?
There are several sources of USS Pension Trustees’ duties. At common law, they are under an obligation to act as fiduciaries –as the loyal servants – of the beneficiaries, and to put no other interests above the interests of the beneficiaries. They have duties under the scheme instruments such as the Trust Deeds. They also have duties under statute, such as under the Pensions Act 1995 and other statutes (pensions law has never been consolidated into a single statute). They have regulatory duties, imposed on them by The Pensions Regulator. We are undertaking this action because we feel that, because of the complexity of the legal position, that USS members need expert legal advice on the matter.
Are you suing the USS Pension Trustees?
At present, no. If the advice we receive indicates any actionable breaches of USS Pension Trustees’ duties, we will consider our options for bringing them into compliance with their duties.
How long is this going to take?
This is going to be a drawn out process. We are currently working with our solicitors, GordonDadds preparing instructions for counsel. Much of this work is being done by ourselves and by volunteers. This includes preparing a detailed ‘factual matrix’ on which counsel can give their opinion, as well as formulating the specific questions on which we can seek advice. After our QC has looked into the matter, we will be seeking to have a conference with a settled note of discussions. At that point, we will be in a position to report back fully to those who have donated.
I would like to donate to the campaign. How can I do so?
Our CrowdJustice campaign reached its initial funding goal of £50,000 in around 31 hours, and we are not currently accepting donations. If we need to take things further, we will open a new funding campaign. You can keep up to date by following us on Twitter (@ForPension) or by signing up for notifications on our CrowdJusticeUK page.
I would like to help. What can I do?
We have been inundated with offers of help, for which we are immensely grateful. The first thing you can do is help to get the message out. Follow @ForPension on Twitter and re-tweet us. Tell your friends and colleagues. Ask your local UCU branch to help spread the word. If you have any specific skills that you think might be of help to us (perhaps you are an academic working in aspects of actuarial sciences, or on pensions law, or… ), send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have information that you would like to share with us, send us an email and we will arrange a suitable time for a phone conversation.