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Eversheds boxing clever over pension regulation.

A city law firm has been at the forefront of a landmark decision by the Pensions Regulator requiring ITV to provide support for the Boxclever Group Pension Scheme, which has a deficit of pounds 62 million.

Eversheds acted for the pension scheme trustee in the case.

The Box Clever joint venture was set up in 2000 as a merger of the declining Granada and Thorn TV rental businesses.

Box Clever was established to enable Granada and Thorn to extract the full value of the businesses in cash.

Granada, which later merged with Carlton Communications to form ITV, received more than pounds 500 million. In order to fund this Box Clever had to borrow pounds 860 million from WestLB. Just over three years later, in September 2003, PriceWaterhouseCoopers was appointed administrative receiver after the Box Clever companies proved unable to service the debt.

In 2005 the Box Clever businesses were sold to new owners by the administrative receivers. The proceeds were not sufficient to meet the claims of the unsecured creditors of which the trustee of the pension scheme was one.

The Box Clever Pension Scheme was left massively underfunded. At the end of 2009 it had assets of just pounds 14.4 million to cover the pounds 76.5 million required to provide pensions for its 3,000 members - a deficit of more than pounds 62 million.

After a private hearing, the Determinations Panel of The Pensions Regulator made a Financial Support Direction requiring ITV to put in place financial support for the Box Clever Pension Scheme. ITV has now lodged an appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

Alan Herbert, chairman of Box Clever Trustees Limited, said: "It was clear as soon as the administrative receivers were appointed in 2003 that the scheme would be in trouble. The trustee has been seeking ever since to have the founders, who received the best part of pounds 1 billion from Box Clever, make good the deficit for their former employees.

"ITV did make a series of small and ever diminishing offers but eventually refused any compensation whatever, even though it had made a significant provision in its accounts for this."

"The trustee is delighted that the Pensions Regulator picked up the case and concluded that it should make a Financial Support Direction to require ITV to address the problem.

"ITV has fought hard against this. We very much hope that, rather than spending more time and money on appealing, the ITV board of directors will on reflection now accept the ruling and start constructive discussions as to how the Box Clever pensioners can be protected.

"The trustee applauds the steps the Pensions Regulator has taken to protect the scheme's pensioners. ITV took over pounds 500m out of Box Clever. It would not be right for the pensioners to suffer. Nor for the burden to be dumped onto the Pension Protection Fund which has to look to other pension schemes and their employers to fund the schemes that fail. " Giles Orton, partner at Eversheds, said: "This is a significant decision. The Pensions Regulator is still feeling its way with the power given to it by Section 43 of the Pensions Act 2004 to make Financial Support Directions.

"It has already used the power on large insolvent groups such as Lehman and Nortel. This is the first time it has looked at a joint venture - and one that was set up before the new legislation came into force.'' St Philips plaudits A city barristers' chambers has received a boost with the announcement of the results of the Crown Prosecution Service Advocates Panel Competition.

Every member of the Bar in England and Wales who wished to prosecute cases on behalf of the CPS in the Crown Courts was invited to apply for the newly formed panel.

The process involved a full written application evidenced by advisory work and supported by references. This was the first major competition run by the CPS for a number of years and the new panels come into practice this month.

The criminal barristers at St Philips have received the largest number, 22, of Level 4 (the highest level below silk), and 12 level 3 practitioners in Birmingham. This included 31 barristers who have made it onto the newly formed specialist rape panel and all appointments are for a three-year period.

James Turner, senior criminal clerk at St Philips said: "It is great to see all of our barristers make it onto the newly selected panel and to receive the highest number in the Midlands, added to the fact we have nine criminal silks certainly shows our strength in depth and confirms our position as one of the leading criminal sets in the Midlands and the UK as a whole."

Kevin Hegarty QC, head of chambers and criminal silk said: "It is a challenging time in the legal market as a whole and especially at the criminal bar. Many of the pressures are directly related to the cuts made in legal aid and we are therefore proud of the strong position St Philips maintains within the legal market both regionally and nationally."

Sydney Mitchell appointment Midlands law firm Sydney Mitchell LLP has expanded its family team with the recent appointment of Mike Vale.

Mr Vale is a well-known lawyer in the Midlands and has handled many complex divorce cases involving multi-million pound assets.

The family team has been growing in reputation, led by partners Karen Moores and Mauro Vinti, and is regularly involved in complex matters involving substantial personal and business property, investments and pensions.

Mr Vale has practised exclusively in family law for 30 years and has been recommended in previous editions of the Legal 500 as "highly regarded".

He said: "This has been an important move for me. In making the decision to join a new firm I was looking for a team that already undertook high quality work and where client care and client relationships were important. It has been a delight to become part of such a vibrant, knowledgeable and dedicated group of family lawyers. I feel sure we will be able to continue to expand and enhance the service Sydney Mitchell offers."

Horseplay Law firm MFG Solicitors has signalled its intention to grow the firm's equine legal practice with the appointment of a specialist lawyer.

As part of the move, Hannah Farmer has joined the Shropshire-based practice as an assistant solicitor from Yorkshire solicitors Dickinson Dees.

An experienced horsewoman, Ms Farmer will play a pivotal role in carving out a niche equine practice for the firm as it looks to develop its already reputable rural services.

Yorkshire-born Ms Farmer will work alongside partners Sarah Baugh and Tom Devey within the firm's rural and agricultural division.

She said: "I have been given a fantastic opportunity here at MFG. I am looking forward to playing my part in establishing the firm's name across the equine industry, whilst also contributing to the general growth of the rural affairs side.

"The equine sector plays an important economic role across the West Midlands which means the county's breeders, owners and equestrian centres require the best possible legal advice.

"That's something MFG can now offer."


Minnie Caldwell, Ena Sharples and Martha Longhurst in Coronation Street, which was produced by Granada
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 2, 2012
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