The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is again calling on ITV to fund the Box Clever pension scheme.
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 in 2009, following the collapse of Box Clever. Prior to the collapse, ITV extracted significant value from the joint venture.
In 2011, TPR issued a determination notice outlining why it was reasonable to issue Financial Support Directions (FSDs) to five companies that formed part of the ITV Group. An FSD requires its target to propose how they will financially support the scheme.
ITV originally referred the case to the Upper Tribunal, in January 2012, to challenge TPR’s determination to issue FSDs and began its further challenge of TPR’s ability to submit additional evidence in late 2013.
A number of hearings followed, including an earlier appeal to the Court of Appeal (and an unsuccessful application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court), before the Upper Tribunal found in TPR’s favour on the additional evidence challenge in 2016. ITV then made subsequent requests for permission to appeal.
The substantive hearing before the Upper Tribunal took place in January 2018, with judgment issued in May 2018.
Then a hearing in May 2019, at the Court of Appeal, dealt with the targets’ challenge of the Upper Tribunal’s May 2018 decision. Following this, on June 20 2019, the Court of Appeal dismissed ITV’s challenge to a decision by the Upper Tribunal last year, namely that a FSD should be issued to ITV in relation to the Box Clever scheme - which has 2,800 members and a deficit of around £115m.
Erica Carroll, TPR’s director of enforcement, said: “ITV has raised numerous legal challenges against our actions for over seven years in a bid to avoid responsibility for the Box Clever scheme.
“Both the Upper Tribunal and now the Court of Appeal have confirmed that ITV should provide financial support to the scheme. Disappointingly, ITV sought the Court of Appeal’s permission to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, however we are pleased that this was refused.
“We hope that ITV will finally accept its responsibility and work with us so that a good outcome can be achieved for members.”