IBM UK cleared by Pension Ombudsman

UK – None of a series of complaints against computer giant IBM have been upheld by the Pensions Ombudsman, a pensioner group says.

According to the Association of Members of IBM UK Pension Plans, or AMIPP, the Ombudsman issued a 67-page determination on the known complaints against IBM and the IBM Pensions Trust this week. It said: “None of the complaints have been upheld.”

The complaints – with the Ombudsman for four years - had ranged from “an appeal to the consciences of those responsible” to charges that the trustees supplied too little information and that inter-scheme transfers were illegal. Another complaint claimed the trustees were working to a wrong principle.

According to the association’s web site, dozens of members had complained to the Occupational Pensions Advisory Service, with the complaints being condensed into four.

A person familiar with the situation has told IPE that the complaints were dealt with personally by the Ombudsman, David Laverick. The complainants have 27 days to appeal.

The decision has led to expressions of shock and anger on the association’s online message board. IBM declined to comment.

Last month IPE reported the company was considering the options for its multi-billion pound UK final salary scheme, which closed to new members in 1997.

AMIPP says of the Ombudsman’s decision: "The IBM UK Pensions Trust chose to use funds that the final salary scheme members had accrued, with the addition of their contributions, to fund a money purchase scheme for a different collection of employees, thus undermining the final salary scheme members' prospects and speeding up a move towards what is now a large deficit in the final salary fund.

“Either the Ombudsman has mis-interpreted the law, or the law has not protected the reasonable expectations of the scheme members.

“In this respect the IBM UK members are like the ASW Steel members; no IBM scheme member will suffer to the extent that the ASW members have suffered but the two groups suffer for the same reason: Trust Law and its interpretation have not protected their pension promise."

"No doubt every complainant feels perturbed when their complaint is not upheld,” trustee Brian Marks told IPE. “It is much worse when you feel your complaint is discarded because some different complaint is described as yours, and that other complaint is under investigated and found wanting by missing or faulty logic."

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