The trustees of the High-Point Rendel Pension Plan applied to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) Ombudsman for its levy for the year 2006/07 to be recalculated; specifically, that it be recalculated by reference to the Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) failure score for the Group's holding company, rather than by reference to High-Point Rendel Limited (HPRL). This would have greatly reduced the levy payable by the scheme.
The PPF Board had used the D&B failure score for HPRL because that company was noted on the scheme return as employing most scheme members. In addition, neither a declaration of scheme structure nor a participating employers form had been filed with the PPF on behalf of the scheme by the relevant deadline.
The trustees argued that D&B's methodology was flawed when dealing with small companies. In particular, a single county court judgement against HPRL had skewed HPRL's D&B's score, as had supplier feedback.
The trustees also suggested that D&B appeared to have acknowledged that they had misunderstood the relationship between HPRL and its holding company by re-rating HPRL in 2007, when the underlying circumstances and the businesses' inter-relationship had not changed from 2006.
The Ombudsman rejected the trustees' application. In the absence of the declaration of scheme structure and the participating employers form, the PPF was correct to use the D&B failure score for HPRL (as the employer with most scheme members). As regards the re-rating of HPRL's failure score in 2007, the Ombudsman did not comment on the substance of the trustees' arguments. Instead, he advised them to raise the matter with the PPF Board.
This case demonstrates the difficulties trustees face when attempting to revisit the calculation of levies. The Ombudsman was not prepared to undermine the reliance of the PPF Board on D&B nor criticise D&B's methodology. It is, therefore, important for trustees and companies to take up any concerns with D&B during the scoring process and to submit the relevant forms to the PPF Board promptly.