ITV has been given given six months to put in place financial support for the Box Clever pension scheme after losing its eight-year legal challenge against The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
TPR has imposed the deadline after the Supreme Court rejected ITV’s latest attempt to challenge TPR’s case that the company should support the pension scheme, which has around 2,800 members and a deficit of around £115m.
The regulator’s Determinations Panel has issued Financial Support Directions (FSDs) to ITV plc and four related entities which must now show how they will support the scheme.
This action follows several years of complex legal challenges by ITV to fight TPR’s use of one of its anti-avoidance powers to protect savers in the scheme.
Last month, the Supreme Court refused ITV’s application for permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s June 2019 judgment, which upheld the May 2018 decision by the Upper Tribunal that FSDs should be issued to ITV and the related entities in respect of the Box Clever scheme.
Erica Carroll, director of enforcement at TPR, said: “In a bid to avoid responsibility for the Box Clever scheme, ITV has used every possible legal channel to fight against our actions to safeguard the retirements of thousands of members.
“Now they have exhausted the legal process we look forward to receiving a credible plan to support the scheme and its members. ITV could have resolved this matter years ago and we hope they will now want to seek a swift resolution and provide closure to the scheme’s 2,800 members.”
ITV now has six months to put in place reasonable financial support for the scheme, which needs to be approved by TPR.
Box Clever was formed in 2000 as a joint venture between the TV rental businesses of Granada (now ITV) and Thorn (now Carmelite). Respective employees were transferred to the new company and enrolled in the Box Clever pension scheme.
TPR opened an anti-avoidance investigation following the collapse of Box Clever. Prior to the collapse, ITV extracted significant value from the joint venture.
FSDs do not specify the form of financial support which should be put in place, so it is for ITV and the other targets to construct a proposal. TPR will then decide whether any proposal is reasonable in the circumstances of this scheme.