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TPR decision opens era of regulatory intervention

Sea Containers has withdrawn its appeal to The Pensions Regulator against a decision to issue two financial support directions on the company.

The firm will now have to provide a form of financial support to two pensions schemes belonging to its subsidiary Sea Containers Services within 30 days.

In June 2007, the regulator’s determinations panel decided to issue two FSDs on the company after parent company Sea Containers went into Chapter 11 administration in 2006.

TPR ordered Sea Containers, which owns the train company GNER, to inject at least £90m into its pension funds or face court action.

An FSD requires a connected or associated party to support a final-salary pension scheme within the same corporate group.

This marks the first time that the watchdog has obtained permission to demand cash on behalf of pension trustees from a company that it fears will abandon its retirement liabilities.

Law firm Mayer Brown London head of pensions Anna Rogers says: “The actions of the determinations panel demonstrate that TPR is prepared to employ its anti-avoidance powers where it feels it is appropriate to do so.

“The determination is unlikely to signal a tide of financial support directions or contribution notices flowing out of Brighton but it does show that the era of regulator intervention has begun.”

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