Defined Benefit  

PPF introduces levy rules for zombie schemes

PPF introduces levy rules for zombie schemes

The Pension Protection fund has introduced new levy rules for defined benefit pension schemes that have no sponsoring employer, known as "zombie schemes".

The new rules were included in the lifeboat fund's latest levy rules, published on Thursday (30 March).

The PPF said the method of calculation for conventional, company-sponsored schemes remained "largely unchanged" from the rules announced in December 2016. 

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However, the provisions for zombie schemes are wholly new, and have been set out in supplementary document to go alongside the one published in December.

The rules follow the announcement in February that members of the collapsed BHS pension scheme will be put into a newly-created zombie scheme - one of the first of its kind - after former BHS owner Sir Philip Green agreed to pay up to £363m into the new scheme.

The new rules lay out methods for calculating how much a zombie scheme must contribute to the PPF, depending on assets under management, funding level, and the riskiness of the investment strategy.

A scheme with £210m of assets, liabilities of £200m (and therefore a 105 per cent funding level), and a 90 per cent bond to 10 per cent equity investment strategy would pay a levy of £440,000 a year. 

However, a scheme that was equally well-funded but ran a riskier investment strategy of 75 per cent bonds to 25 per cent equities would pay £2.65m a year into the PPF.

Funds that were more than 115 per cent funded, and that run low risk strategies, would pay no levy at all.

The PPF used the 13-page document to respond to industry submissions on its decision essentially to normalise the creation of zombie schemes.

"Despite the short timeframe we received a wide range of responses including from schemes, employers and advisers," the PPF stated.

"We are very grateful for the effort taken to review our proposals and to contribute to the development of a levy rule for schemes without a substantive sponsor."

The PPF listed a number key areas of concern raised by the consultation.

They included: the need for discretion in each individual case; the need to look at other options before allowing an employer to detach itself from the scheme; clarity on which types of structure or process were intended to be captured; and the need for "transparent rule-based guidance in determining whether a sponsor is substantive".

While only a few schemes, including the Kodak and BHS pension schemes, have gone down the zombie scheme route so far, many expect more schemes to follow.

The British Steel Pension Scheme, for example, is thought to be a likely candidate for this model.

Commenting on the BHS deal in early March, John Broome Saunders, actuarial director at pensions consultancy Broadstone, told FTAdviser: "The deal shows we are probably moving towards a position where more employees will have no sponsoring employers.

"I think it will become quite an attractive idea for businesses that are struggling but not at the point where insolvency is inevitable."