UK – Pensions Ombudsman David Laverick has defended his handling of a case brought against IBM by scheme members – and said his office had been facing an increasing workload.

“I do regret the delays which occurred in coming to my determination but have seen no evidence that the delay prejudiced the outcome,” Laverick wrote in a response to a letter from MP Jim Sheridan.

The West Renfrewshire MP had written to Laverick over the Ombudsman’s determinations in what Sheridan called the ‘IBM affair’.

The exchange centred around Laverick’s decision last October to reject a series of complaints against the computer firm brought by members.

Contacted by IPE in January, Laverick would neither confirm nor deny whether he had received Sheridan’s letter. Now, the text of his letter to Sheridan has been published on an IBM pensioner website.

“This was not the kind of case which turned on oral evidence which became increasingly less reliable over time and thus where delay may prejudice the outcome,” Laverick wrote. He denied that complainants were denied due process.

“Incoming work has been increasing year and year and increased very considerably in the 2002-3 financial year, putting the then resources of the office under very great pressure, both during that year and since.”

He justified his decision to take personal charge of the case following the resignation of Sarah Jacobs. He said: “I had already had a not inconsiderable involvement in the IBM investigation, and as it did clearly involve some disputes of law, it was likely to be quicker for me not to reallocate the complaint to another investigator.”

“It is the case that I found myself in very considerable difficulty in finding the necessary blocks of time to make satisfactory progress.

“It is certainly arguable that had I passed the file to another investigator it may have been possible to have produced an earlier draft determination than I was able to do myself although this would have been at the expense of considerable delay to the other files on which my investigators were working.”

He resented the Sheridan’s implication that the matter was not properly investigated. “I am satisfied that at the end of the day the proper result was reached.” He noted there has been no appeal.