Unravelling the Web

by | Nov 3, 2021 | Pension History

How the Maxwell Pensioners Trust tackled the Challenge

A Trustee’s perspective 30 years on

Thirty years ago this week Robert Maxwell disappeared from his yacht. His body was subsequently found floating in the Atlantic some distance off the Canary Isles. The cause of his death has never been conclusively proved, but what is sure is that he left behind a vast hole in the funds of the various pension schemes of his business empire. Some £450 million were missing, affecting more than 32,000 pension scheme members.

This talk is not about Robert Maxwell, or any of the Maxwell family whose names have resurfaced in the Press over the years. It is about how this appalling pension fund theft was addressed by a small group of people, of which I was one, who were asked by the Government of the day to try and sort out the mess. Thirty years on, many of the main players are no longer with us, but I will do what I can to describe what happened over the following critical few years.

In those days I did not own a computer, and copies of many documents copied on old-fashioned photocopy paper have faded, and become illegible. But thanks to having a squirrel-like PA for much of the ‘90s who hung on to every piece of paper in case it might prove useful in the future, and to the Pensions Archive Trust records lodged with the London Metropolitan Archives, I have been able to piece together some facts to supplement my memory of those events.

As the country became aware of the enormity of the misappropriated pension assets, the government came under increasing pressure to do something about the disaster. A vocal Maxwell Pensioners Action Group had been formed, the Parliamentary Social Security Committee had conducted hearings into the situation and had declared support for the members of the Maxwell pension schemes. Over the next 30-40 minutes, I shall be touching on the following:- A brief bit on the background – The Government’s response to the disaster – the major players in the drama – the attempts at mediation – the major settlement – and a 30-year perspective on the affair.

Following the news of Maxwell’s disappearance in the early hours of 5 November 1991, first reactions in the press were disbelief, accompanied largely by admiration for a man who had risen from humble beginnings in pre-war Czechoslovakia to extraordinary heights in terms of business achievements on the world stage. The obituaries and tributes, from the great and the good alike, were, for the most part, generous to this exceptional, larger than life character – with references to ‘a charismatic figure’ ‘a great character’ ‘nobody has come from less and achieved more’ and so on.

While it was widely known that the Mirror Group was in difficulties, the raid on the pension funds was not yet publicly known, though worrying signs had been picked up in some of the schemes. But when a Serious Fraud Office investigation into unpaid bank loans became known, and some weeks later huge sums were found to be missing from Mirror Group Newspapers’ pension scheme, the press coverage altered dramatically.

Maxwell began to be referred to as ‘a monster’ and ‘a crook and a liar’. Recriminations abounded. It was remembered that an enquiry by the DTI in 1971 had declared him ‘not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly owned company’. So how could this have been allowed to happen? Accusations against the financial watchdogs of the day began to proliferate, with references to earlier financial scandals: the private Bank of Credit and Commerce International which had collapsed in July ‘91; Barlow Clowes which collapsed in 1988 with some 18,000 investors losing their life savings. Who was responsible? Someone had to be held accountable for these disasters.
The first Parliamentary reference to “fraud” that I can find was on 16 January 1992 in a debate on City Institutions. A Member asked if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be meeting the Governor of the Bank of England to discuss City institutions, and referred to Polly Peck (a FTSE100 company which collapsed in 1991 with debts of £1.3bn), Brent Walker which also collapsed the same year with similar debts, BCCI and ‘the greatest scandal of all – The Maxwell Scandal’.

Before long, pensioners began contacting their MPs, pensioner lobby groups formed from the various Maxwell schemes and contacted the Press, articles appeared asking what was being done to help scheme members, increasing numbers of questions were asked in Parliament. Pressure mounted on the Government to do something. Following several hearings, the Social Security Committee produced a report in March ’92 making a number of recommendations, one of which was a thorough review of pension scheme law; they were also highly critical of the Investment Management Regulatory Authority (IMRO) and they pledged support for the Maxwell pensions scheme members. They urged Government action. It became clear that something needed to be done.

A statement by Baroness Stedman in the House of Lords on 4 June 1992 quoted a leader in the Evening Standard which summed up the current feelings:

“The trustees of the Maxwell pension fund were poodles. The auditors were, to say the least, absent-minded. The lawyers were not looking in the right direction. The banks who transferred the pension fund’s money looked no further than the face value of the securities they were handling. The Bank of England was doing something else at the time. The Securities and Investments Board was out to lunch … IMRO was twiddling its thumbs … The buck was passed from well-manicured hand to well-manicured hand, and it seems to have come to rest in Liechtenstein, where the pensioners cannot get at it.”

On 8 June, the new Secretary of State, Peter Lilley, announced to Parliament a package of measures: the establishment of a Pension Law Review Committee to be chaired by Professor Roy Goode, Professor of English Law at Oxford, “the Goode Committee” as it came to be known; he also said the government would bring in regulations to implement a provision of the Social Security Act 1990 to make any deficiency in pension funds being wound up a debt on the employer company; in response to criticisms that the Government had failed in its duty to properly regulate pension funds, he said that no government could accept a duty to make good losses resulting from fraud or theft of savings. It was not right that the taxpayer should be held liable for misappropriated assets. This was repeated many times over the following years.

He also announced the establishment of the Maxwell Pensions Unit and the Maxwell Pensioners Trust, which is where my involvement began.

At the time, I was working at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Out of the blue – and to my astonishment – I received a phone call from Sir Michael Partridge, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Security asking me if I would serve as a Trustee of the Maxwell Pensioners Trust. I still have the piece of paper with a few scribbled pencil notes I made of that conversation.

(As an aside, I would just remind everyone that it was very rare in those days for offices to have electronic equipment such as computers and printers and hardly anyone had a mobile phone. I certainly had none of those. Much communication was carried out via fax machines using paper which faded if exposed to air. Many of the documents in the personal files I consulted for this talk were almost illegible – so I was very glad for the odd piece of paper with handwritten notes!)

On 28 June a Press Statement was issued announcing the establishment of the Maxwell Pensions Unit to help co-ordinate the return of the missing assets, to be headed by a senior civil servant, John Ballard, on secondment from the Department of the Environment, the provision of £2.5 million in emergency funding to drip-feed the various schemes in need in order to keep pensions in payment in the short term, and the appointment of Sir John Cuckney (later Lord Cuckney) as both Special Adviser to the Unit and Chairman of the Maxwell Pensioners Trust. Two other founder Trustees were named: Sir Ewen Broadbent, a former Permanent Under Secretary at the MoD and Trustee of the South Atlantic Fund, and me. (Photo slide 1)
Very sadly, Sir Ewen died suddenly in February the following year; he was first replaced as a Trustee by David Marlow and later by Sir Thomas Hetherington).

In summary, the problem we were faced with was the following:

Some £450 million in assets were found to be missing from the pension funds of the companies under Robert Maxwell’s control. His business empire was in a state of collapse. Since his death, it had become apparent that the pensions of more than 32,000 scheme members were at risk – some more than others.

Some Maxwell schemes would have to cut severely, or suspend, payments to pensioners. Nine Maxwell Pension schemes were initially identified plus two other schemes affecting another 1,000 or so members due to transfer payments in respect of their Maxwell service not having been made.

There were some 400 companies in the Maxwell Group and it emerged that over £750 m had been borrowed by them from various banks all over the world. Share certificates owned by pension schemes were missing. Company and pension scheme records were in a terrible mess. it was impossible to determine who owned what, and who belonged to which pension scheme. The picture was one of total confusion. An individual might be contracted to one company, work for another and be paid by a third, be a member of one pension scheme and be transferred to another. Companies were constantly being acquired and others sold. As his businesses floundered, Maxwell used pension fund assets as collateral for loans to his private companies and to support the share price of the Mirror Group and the Maxwell Communications Corporation, where the shares were then used as collateral for further loans.

The Maxwell Pensions Unit and the Trust’s terms of reference were set by the Secretary of State: The Unit was to help co-ordinate and accelerate the return of the missing pension assets and to support the Trust. The purpose of the Trust, which was set up as a discretionary trust on 17 July 1992, was to secure contributions from private sector donors in a fund from which payments could be made to those pension funds in deficit, or to the beneficiaries who were not receiving their full entitlements.

We, the Trustees, had to decide on the criteria for making payments to schemes in need: funds would be provided only for benefits that would have been payable under the individual scheme rules, (though not all scheme benefits could be provided). Each new funding request was considered separately as we had limited funds and wanted to be sure to use them in a fair and equitable way and of maximum benefit to all Maxwell pensioners.

Payments to schemes were made in the form of repayable, precisely worded Loan Agreements so that any scheme which recovered had to return the monies loaned to it which could then be recycled for other Maxwell schemes still in difficulties.

Initially, we wanted the Trust to have charitable status to enable those contributing to benefit from tax advantages, but this would not have allowed us to make payments to pension funds. However, we had wide discretionary powers and were able to set up a related charitable trust the following year from which we made small grants to individual pensioners suffering financial hardship on a similar basis to that adopted by the Trustees of the Hillsborough Disaster Appeal Fund. A colleague of mine from Liverpool, who had been legal adviser to the Hillsborough Disaster appeal gave us invaluable advice on how that appeal had been structured. A list of the sort of small grants made to individuals from the MP Charitable Trust can be seen on this slide (2)

Dedicated offices for the Unit and for the Trust were established at 7, St James’s Square, a few doors down from where the Libyan Embassy siege had occurred in 1984 resulting in the tragic murder of 25-year old PC Yvonne Fletcher, and we held our first meeting of the Trust there on 2 July 1992. Initially, we met every two weeks and the appeal for donations to the Trust started immediately.

The appeal was made with a phased approach to major companies, banks, solicitors, accountants, stockbrokers, financial advisers and others in the financial services sector. The first substantial donation received was from the NAPF for £120,000, but other significant donations were slow to emerge. It soon became clear that there was little chance of raising the millions needed to resolve the problem through donations. A major reason was the widespread view among organisations who had dealt with Maxwell that a donation could imply some sort of guilt. Also, some felt that if they contributed to the Trust, they might end up paying twice by also facing claims through the courts. And companies which had steered clear of Maxwell felt it was the responsibility of others who had had dealings with him – including the Government – to put matters right.

For these reasons, we decided that the focus of the appeal should change to something comparable to a disaster appeal, such as those for the Lockerbie air crash, the Piper Alpha oil fire and the Bradford football ground fire. In this way, the Trust managed eventually to raise a total of £5,951,061 from a wide range of businesses and individuals, some of whom had had dealings with Robert Maxwell. The largest donation was a 7-figure sum.

This was, of course, nowhere near enough to replace the lost assets, but it did allow us to make a significant difference to a particular group of vulnerable, elderly individuals whose existence was highlighted to us by the Maxwell Pensioners Action Group: those who were in receipt of ex-gratia pensions from Maxwell companies but who were not actually members of any formal pension schemes. They were therefore not entitled to benefit from the Government’s emergency £2.5 million initial grant and their ex-gratia pensions had stopped with the collapse of most of the Maxwell businesses. We started to make monthly payments to this group and eventually were able to buy 72 pensioners or their dependents annuities to provide them with long-term financial security.

Many different players were involved in resolving the Maxwell drama: administrators, receivers, bankruptcy liquidators, scheme trustees, UK and US banks, solicitors and accountants. All of these parties had different interests and responsibilities, many of which conflicted with other players. There were claims and counterclaims. The major interested parties, the liquidators, the administrators, the pension scheme trustees and the lawyers advising the parties, were all trying to recover assets, trace funds and lodge claims.

The DSS, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the former financial services regulators – Securities and Investment Board (SIB), IMRO and the Serious Fraud Office were also key players. The Social Security Select Committee, chaired by Frank Field, was closely involved throughout. Sir John appeared before them on more than one occasion to keep them informed of the Trust’s progress (I still have the 75-page briefing paper drawn up as preparation for his appearance in October 1992) and they kept up the impetus by holding all the major players to account. (It is interesting today to look back at who was serving on the Select Committee 30 years ago: Jeremy Corbyn, David Willetts, Jane Kennedy are names that are probably still familiar to most of us here today)

By the time the Trust was established, four new sets of trustees were in place to replace the original trustee companies dominated by the Maxwell family. The two largest schemes had trustee boards composed of management and staff interests. One of the boards, the Mirror Group Pension Scheme (MGPS) had an independent chairman from the outset. The second – the Maxwell Communication Works Pension Scheme (MCWPS) appointed an independent chairman in October 1992. The other two trustees were professional corporate trustees: Alexander Clay & Partners covering the various schemes in the private companies, and Law Debenture Trust Corporation as trustee of the Maxwell Communication Pension Plan (MCPP).

Slide of Maxwell schemes (3)

Most of the pension scheme assets were held in a Common Investment Fund via a Maxwell subsidiary company, Bishopsgate Investment Management (BIM). In theory, this was a sensible way to invest combined assets efficiently and cost-effectively. It was a unitized fund where the different schemes were credited with the number of units equivalent to the value of its investment and a scheme’s holdings could be bought or sold as need be. Unfortunately, the records had not been kept up to date: the last valuation had taken place 18 months before the Maxwell empire collapsed. BIM had gone into liquidation in March 1992 and the assets in it were crucial for the pensioners.

A good example of one strand of the Maxwell web is how BIM was described in the first report of the Social Security Committee (I paraphrase): “BIM was incorporated in 1987 under the name of Lamid Ltd… it changed its name in 1988 to BIM and BIM applied for Occupational Pension membership of IMRO. The application showed it was a wholly owned subsidiary of Pergamon Holdings Anstalt, a Liechtenstein holding company. This in turn was wholly owned by Maxwell Foundation, a Liechtenstein Foundation (stiftung). In 1989 the Maxwell Charitable Trust acquired the whole of the share capital of BIM for £1. BIM had no staff. It was run by employees of Headington Holdings Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Robert Maxwell Group) and was responsible for the investment management, while Headington was responsible for the administration of pensions. In 1990 the whole of the BIM share capital of £100,000 was lent to the Maxwell Charitable Trust on an interest free basis. The Maxwell Charitable Trust was effectively controlled by Robert Maxwell with no trustees appointed by the pension funds…. BIM was entirely in the control of Robert Maxwell and was never a suitable vehicle for the independent management of pension fund assets.”

Another complication was that many of Maxwell subsidiaries had very similar names, but different purposes e.g. Bishopsgate Investment Management (investment managers for the pension scheme funds), London & Bishopsgate International Investment Managers (investment consultancy), London and Bishopsgate International NV (a mutual fund registered in the Dutch Antilles which handled foreign exchange dealings), and Bishopsgate Investment Trust (appeared to be designed just to enable the transfer of share certificates from BIM to the private companies). The companies all shared a common set of directors who could conveniently sign sales of share packages from different sources.
The complexity of the Maxwell tangled web of deceit was such that we had no clear idea of the gap between assets and liabilities of the various schemes. Estimates varied between a best guess gap of £70 million and a worst case scenario gap of £120 million, with some schemes in a far worse place than others.

To give another example of the sort of problems we came up against: In the mid-‘80s Maxwell had acquired two small businesses and set up a pension scheme for the employees (the AGB pension scheme). Following a later management buyout a new pension scheme was established (the VWE scheme) and the employees of one of the businesses transferred from the AGB scheme to the new scheme, and some employees transferred out to other pension schemes. The VWE was due to receive a bulk transfer value from AGB as were other pension schemes due bulk transfers from the VWE. But by the end of 1990 only interim transfer payments had been made by AGB to VWE, and the two schemes had not agreed on the outstanding amounts due. Delays in establishing the amounts meant that by the time of the businesses’ collapse and the AGB scheme went into wind-up VWE had still not received the transfer value. The scheme’s assets were exhausted by the summer of 1992 and VWE pensioners had to rely completely on the drip-feed emergency funding from government.

While the Trustees were trying to get to grips with the complexity and confusion, pressure was mounting from all sides for a resolution to the problem. Not surprisingly, there was intense and widespread pressure for solutions from various active Maxwell Pensioner groups and MPs – particularly those in marginal constituencies – were understandably vocal on their behalf in Parliament and in contacting the Trustees.
By the end of 1992 it had become clear that the funds raised through the initial appeal were not going to be anywhere near sufficient to plug the gap between the schemes’ assets and liabilities once the initial government grant of £2.5m had been exhausted. The Treasury (Norman Lamont being the Chancellor of the day) was strongly opposed to making additional government monies available, which he saw as exposing the government to moral hazard of a kind which would border on irresponsibility with taxpayers’ money. It was expected that the emergency £2.5m funding would run out by March, after which the £6m raised by the Trust could take over for possibly another 12 – 18 months, way before pension schemes could recover sufficient assets to pay pensions at anything approaching previous levels. The government would then come under strong pressure to make good the shortfall and create what they saw as an unacceptable precedent of taxpayers having to pay for Maxwell’s theft of pensioners’ funds.

A distinctive feature of the Maxwell affair was the large number of different interested parties, each approaching their task from a different angle and often in actual or potential conflict. The Trust and the Unit were encouraging all parties to work towards an overall settlement by the summer, but everyone was fighting their own corner and some parties were intransigent in pursuing their own interests however long that might take. The liquidator of the Common Investment Fund and his solicitor were locked in a bitter dispute with pension fund trustees over fees which looked as though it could only be resolved through the courts at huge cost and with massive delay. It was therefore decided to try and persuade the parties to consider mediation. Agreement was reached to form a sub fund of the CIF into which all liquid assets could be placed and drawn upon by the schemes to fund pensions for the next six months. It was hoped that the 6-month period would give a breathing space to try and resolve the disputes through mediation.

A recently retired High Court Judge, Sir Peter Webster, agreed to act as a mediator between all parties. The Maxwell Pensions Unit arranged a 2-day briefing session on Mediation for the Trustees in January ‘94. A number of eminent Judges participated (Lord Roskill, Lord Ackner, Lord Oliver, Lord Griffiths, Sir Christopher Slade, Sir Francis Purchas and Sir Michael Kerr), with the intention of forming a Mediation Panel to work with Sir Peter to resolve disputes, with observers of the briefing session from the Bar Council and the Law Society as well as all the MPT Trustees. The briefing covered issues such as When and How to use mediated negotiation, settlement negotiation, how to reframe problems, and data analysis of Risk and Uncertainty. We were taken through a number of case studies and formed pairs to consider various exercises – I was paired with Lord Ackner – a fascinating two days! (Two years previously, I had begun sitting as a magistrate on the Liverpool City Bench so the opportunity of joining forces with senior Judges in this way was an incredible experience for me).

The hope was that by mediating between the various individual disputes it might be possible to reach an overall settlement between the pension schemes and the other parties involved – banks, employers, professional advisers and insurers. If a sufficient sum could be raised from those involved it could meet all pension scheme liabilities and all the different actions could be dropped in a “global settlement”.
The Trustees were not involved in Sir Peter’s talks which were, of their nature, completely confidential as between the mediator and the respective parties. The extent of our involvement was to encourage all parties involved in the disputes to participate.

The initiative was highly problematic: there were around 50 interlocking claims between a number of participants, where some claims would be strengthened if other claims were resolved but, as all negotiations were conducted in confidence, potential contributors had to assess their own contributions on the basis of imperfect information about the strength of claims against others which overlapped with those they themselves faced.

There was always only a slim chance that mediation in this way would be successful and, unfortunately, over the following months that proved to be the case. One of the parties to the talks withdrew and the process collapsed without resolution.

This was a worrying time. Following the breakdown of the initiative, some of the parties approached Sir John, our Chairman, to ask if he would build on Sir Peter’s discussions and make a personal attempt to broker a major – not global – settlement of the biggest claims. The aim was to try and settle as many as possible of the strongest pension-related disputes and claims, and return enough money to the schemes to safeguard most pensions for the future. Sir John agreed to do this on a personal basis, but in order to do so he had to stand down as Chairman of the Trust to take on the “neutral role” of brokering talks between the parties. He felt it was essential to be seen as “the honest broker” which would be incompatible with his position as a Trustee. I was asked to replace him as Chairman of the Trust, and the Charitable Trust, in January 1995. (Sir Thomas Hetherington subsequently joined as a Trustee in March that year as did John Ballard, the Director of the Maxwell Pensions Unit).

The Trust had no formal role in Sir John’s talks to broker a major settlement and I believe there are no records of the detail of his talks, or how he was able to succeed. My own view is that it was by force of personality. Among friends and colleagues who knew him well, Sir John Cuckney had the reputation of being extraordinarily persuasive. Many times over the last 25 years have I heard people say that it was impossible to say No to him! He was so in command of his brief that he was able to present an argument clearly and succinctly and respond conclusively to any counterarguments.

He met all the parties in early January to discuss possibilities. One of the sticking points to date had been the issue of State Scheme Premiums (SSPs). Part of the package of aid from Government to Maxwell Pensioners was an announcement in October 1992 to defer collecting State Scheme Premiums from the Maxwell schemes whose members had contracted back into SERPS and that had not recovered sufficiently to pay member benefits. Once schemes had recovered sufficient funds to buy annuities for their members, the deferred SSPs would be repayable, but the government’s position was that the deferment was only on a scheme by scheme basis, in discussion between the DSS and each scheme and could not form part of a major settlement at a cost to public funds. The Government refused to change its position and this remained the case.

Sir John held several rounds of intensive discussions with the scheme trustees and BIM liquidators, without legal advisers present, urging the parties to consider the consequences of a successful outcome compared with the consequences of the talks ending in failure. Once agreement was reached in late February on the quantum of the settlement, detailed terms and conditions had to be agreed. The Bank of England helped by acting as a paying agent and arranging for appropriate sums to be forwarded to each of the Maxwell schemes, ensuring that the process remained completely confidential.

A final agreement on a major settlement worth some £276 million to the pension schemes was reached at the end of March 1995. This was an amazing achievement. The settlement enabled the pension rights of almost all Maxwell scheme members to be safeguarded, although members of the smaller schemes from the private side of Maxwell companies and members of schemes owed transfer values by Maxwell schemes still faced difficulties.

To speed up resolving outstanding problems, the Trustees decided to devote funds to support work to resolve some complex transfer disputes and this accelerated the resolution of disputes between the schemes. But progress was slow and pension members were still facing great uncertainty. I had meetings with the Permanent Secretary, Ann Bowtell, who had by then replaced Sir Michael Partridge, to ensure that the Government kept up the pressure on all parties. In October 1996, in agreement with the independent trustee of all the private side schemes, the Trustees decided to make over the remaining funds of £1.78 million to a new non-discretionary trust (MaxTrust) to meet any further shortfalls in pension through drip feed funding support to schemes until the resolution of transfer disputes and further recoveries were made. The funds would last at least a further five years.

I wrote to the Secretary of State expressing my wish to retire from the Trust and the Charitable Trust later that year and both Trusts were officially wound up on 31 January 1997. Copy of final press release issued by the Government (slide 4)

My final act as Chairman of the Trust was to send a copy of the report of the work of the two Trusts to Peter Lilley with a request that it should be made available to other Departments or bodies with an interest in Maxwell matters.

One of the most – if not the most – significant outcome of the Maxwell saga was the birth of the Pension Compensation Board (PCB). It arose from recommendations of the Goode Committee. In June 1994 the Government produced a White Paper entitled “Security, Equality, Choice: The Future for Pensions” establishing a pension compensation scheme, to be administered by the Pensions Ombudsman, payable to pension schemes where the sponsoring employer was insolvent, where the losses to the scheme were due to dishonest removal of assets and where the loss had reduced the scheme’s solvency to less than 90% of its liabilities. Compensation would be funded by a levy on occupational pension schemes – the PCB levy. The PCB has since been superseded by the Fraud Compensation Fund, managed by the Board of the Pension Protection Fund.

And, of course, we can’t forget the changes in regulatory authorities. The Cadbury Report, published in 1992 after the Polly Peck, BCCI and Maxwell scandals, led in due course to the UK Corporate Governance Code. The Pensions Act 1995 established the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (OPRA), (replacing the earlier Occupational Pensions Board) and OPRA was subsequently replaced by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) in the Pensions Act of 2004.

In their submission to the Goode Committee, the Social Security Committee observed that “The single good deed Robert Maxwell has done for pensioners generally is to ensure that the issue of the ownership and control of pension schemes is now high up on the political agenda”. I think we would all agree that nearly 30 years on it still is.

In this talk I have avoided mentioning many of the players by name. Much of what we dealt with was highly sensitive and confidential. Even 30 years after these events some individuals could still be embarrassed or discomfited by past actions, even if carried out with the best of intentions. And the work of the MPU, the MPT and the MPCT was funded and supported by the Government throughout (although the Trustees all gave their time and efforts unpaid for 5 years). We therefore had to abide by Government’s decisions and actions, even if on occasions we might have favoured an alternative approach.

Finally, and interestingly – to me – was a comment made by an eminent pensions lawyer in my presence a few years ago in a discussion about the ever increasing complexity of pensions regulation, to the effect that the problems all started after Maxwell – it had all gone downhill since then! What do you think?

Briefing notes for me – not to include in the report:
Repayable Loans: Two schemes recovered fully and were able to repay their loans in full: The Headington Pension Plan and the Directors’ Pension Plan

State Scheme Premiums: One of the many problems that arose some five years after the MPT was wound up was the issue of State Scheme Premiums (SSPs). Part of the package of aid from Government to Maxwell Pensioners was an announcement in October 1992 to defer collecting State Scheme Premiums from the Maxwell schemes whose members had contracted back into SERPS and that had not recovered sufficiently to pay member benefits. Once schemes had recovered sufficient funds to buy annuities for their members, the deferred SSPs would be repayable. Some years after the Major Settlement was achieved, and the Trust had wound up, one of the schemes which was still not able to buy annuities for its members, felt that some schemes had ended up with more money than they needed, possibly due to the basis on which they had valued their liabilities, thus enabling them to repay their SSPs to Government and end up with a surplus. The Trustee of that scheme asked Government to recycle some of the repaid SSP monies to their scheme to redress the shortfall and enable annuities to be purchased for their members. Unfortunately for those members, after a lengthy investigation involving the National Audit Office and much lobbying of the Social Security Select Committee, the Government took the view that the deferment of SSPs had been on a scheme by scheme basis, and that it could not use taxpayers’ monies in this way to fund a scheme’s deficit.

BCCI resulted in what has been described as the most expensive case in British legal history.

While the MPT Chairman, Sir John, bore by far the major brunt of liaising with the Press, Ministers, the MPAG and the Social Security Committee, the Trustees took part in bilateral meetings with interested parties.

Only one Maxwell company, Mirror Group Newspapers, remained solvent in the longer term.

Payments Supported: not all scheme benefits could be provided, for example only early retirement benefits on grounds of ill-health).

Office Holders:
Robson Rhodes, liquidator of BIM and trustee of the CIF; Price Waterhouse, administrators of MCC; Arthur Andersen, administrators of the Maxwell private companies

Out of court agreements in Jan.’94: Bank of America £25 m to Mirror Group Pension Scheme (MGPS); Lehman Bros £27m with Maxwell pension schemes; Invesco, Capel-Cure Myers and Lehmans £32m with MGPS

I have said very little about the Maxwell Pensions Unit which facilitated and supported the work of the Trust, but would like briefly to pay tribute to the MPU staff: particularly John Ballard who ran the Unit so expertly and John Nightingale who supported the Trust until it wound up in 1997.