Fears over pension protection

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Law firm Wedlake Bell last week sounded an alarm over anti-avoidance provisions, which it believes could render insolvency practitioners liable for professional negligence claims.

Martin Arnold, partner with the firm, said: ‘The key point for IPs to note … is that, as presently drafted, the anti-avoidance provisions will operate in respect of things done, or which fail to be done, from June 11, 2003.’

‘If practitioners fail to take this into account, they could be held to be professionally negligent.’

R3, the Association of Business Recovery Professionals, said practitioners were aware of the danger, but added that the vagueness of the provisions was hampering work.

The provisions, designed to prevent employers from passing their pension liabilities off onto the PPF, will operate from June 2003 onwards, even though it is anticipated that the fund will not come into being until 2005.

The Department for Work and Pensions insisted that the changes – known as the ‘moral hazard’ clauses – would target only those ‘deliberately’ trying to dump pension liabilities.

The department said it was in discussions with industry and other stakeholders over the final form of the anti-avoidance provisions.

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