In Independent Trustee Services v Hope, the High Court cited public policy to strike down a plan by the trustees of the Ilford Pension Scheme which would have secured the best deal for members but which would also have increased the liabilities of the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).
The scheme was on the brink of PPF entry (because of employer insolvency) and the trustees sought directions from the Court as to whether they could properly use their powers to buy-out certain categories of members' benefits (specifically early retirees) before tipping the remaining liabilities into the PPF. Should the buy-out not take place, those who took early retirement but who were under the scheme's normal retirement age would find their benefits capped; under the trustees' plan, their benefits would be bought out in full, but the other members would not be affected because they would be fully compensated when the scheme entered the PPF.
The Court held that the existence of the PPF is not a relevant factor for trustees to consider when exercising their powers in these circumstances because to do so would be "contrary to the clear legislative policy of the Pensions Act 2004, and would thus be contrary to public policy". The trustees proposed to use a disproportionately large share of scheme assets "in a way that could not possibly be justified if the PPF did not exist".