UK - The UK Supreme Court has decided - in Bridge Trustees v Houldsworth - that two hybrid pension schemes are defined contribution schemes.

Hybrid pensions include elements of both defined contribution and defined benefit schemes, such as a money purchase benefit with guaranteed investment returns.

They can run deficits, which arise because of a guarantee element in their benefits.

The government disagrees with the Supreme Court, viewing hybrid pension schemes as defined benefit.

It feels defined contribution funds should have no difference between asset and liability values, a characteristic that hybrid plans do not have.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it planned to change the disputed definition and reclassify hybrid pension schemes as defined benefit, overriding the Supreme Court's decision.

The DWP plans to write retroactive legislation that takes effect before or on the court's judgment date.

In other news, the Law Society Pension Scheme has completed a £320m (€360m) buy-in first launched in late 2009.

The acquisition of the bulk annuity from Metlife Assurance, overseen by Mercer, will cover around 1,800 members from England and Wales covered by the scheme.

Its £320m total liability is now fully insured by Metlife. The June transaction was worth £240m, adding on to a £80m transaction in late 2009.

Metlife was chosen in a competitive tendering process, where insurers were judged on their long-term financial security and affordability.

Meanwhile, UK broadcaster ITV reported that £48m in deficit reduction payments to its pension scheme had little effect due to a matching increase in liabilities in the first six months of the year.

Explaining the significant increase, the company blamed the scheme's recent actuarial  valuation showing a £58m shortfall between previous assumptions made during the triennial valuations and now.

Overall, the group had seen a £1m reduction in the scheme's deficit between December last year and June, reporting a £312m shortfall.

In an effort to combat the deficit, it said it "extended" on the terms of a partnership that would see wholly owned ITV subsidiary SDN see its cash flow redirected into the pension fund.

Finally, employers could save money by considering alternatives to closing their defined benefit pension (DB) schemes, according to Aon Hewitt.

In its latest Global Pension Risk Survey, the consultancy found that 29% of UK respondents had frozen their schemes to future accrual.

This has set a market trend of companies freezing their DB pension schemes, it said.

James Patten, benefits design specialist at Aon Hewitt, said many employers with pension problems now felt the best solution was to "turn the DB tap off".

Patten said closure to DB accrual might still be the best match for an employer's objectives, especially when active members are younger and the employer wants to control risk.

However, it should "certainly not be the only route considered".

Alternative routes include maintaining a DB scheme, but capping pensionable pay growth at 1% per annum.

By Aon Hewitt's estimates, this could generate 80% more savings than simply freezing a scheme and could be appropriate for pension schemes with more mature active members.

Other money-saving options include switching to a career-average arrangement,
where pension benefits are calculated from average salary rather than final salary, or a cash balance design, which resembles a defined contribution plan.