November 2009. This page has not been updated. The "News"
and "Actives" pages cover the events of 2009.
June 2007 - The complaints from around year 2000 are now a matter of
history; because taking the matter to the High Court was unaffordable.
The limitations of Trust Law and of the Ombudsman are still showing up
in other contexts. Such basic questions as "Can the Company say
what it likes in order to recruit/retain/retire staff and then do
something different?" and "Can the trustees make any unfair alteration
they like to the scheme provided the deeds and regulations do not
explicitly prevent it?" can still only be answered by opinion.
The situation with respect to the AMIPP organisation is covered in a
For IBM, the C-Plan has been severely degraded in 2005 and again in
2006. There are new related complaints.
The Members' Reports have been improved in recent years.
However, the Actuarial Report for 2006 is not yet available. It is
expected to show a healthy funding because the scheme degradations have
greatly reduced the liabilities.
Feb 2004 - essentially no change. However see the Newsletters
and a message from AMIPP.
Nov 2003 - essentially no change. There was a
trustee election late in 2002.
The story can be said to have started when the original Tom
Watson built up IBM with his personal ethos stamped on it. We pick
it up in 1957 when IBM UK, as part of IBM World Trade, was bringing
those approaches here, and the IBM UK Pensions Trust was started.
As the home page explains, IBM UK employees bought their pensions
over decades on the basis that all benefits were good. About
a decade ago, the IBM ethos did a U-turn and this began to feed through,
worldwide, into the pensions of retirees. In the mid-Nineties,
government regulations were introduced into the UK to give members more
influence in the running of their pension schemes, via elected trustees.
Eventually it became apparent that there was cause for concern.
The gap between the pensions in payment policy that employees bought and
the one that retirees encountered became inexplicable. The
influence of IBM US, through its appointment of the majority of the
trust board, was negating the fair play that the regulations were
intended to uphold. A money purchase scheme was introduced,
something which the trust has called
the extreme action of totally changing the nature of the pension plans.
Instead of the money purchase scheme being separately funded,
as those who set up the trust intended and members expected, it was
funded from the reserves of the final salary plan - a unilateral
decision that only slowly became apparent to the members.
complainant, Mike Cawley, pursued one aspect of these concerns with the
Occupational Pensions Advisory Service in 1999. Most members did not
acquire, until the second half of year 2000, enough information to
formulate their complaints. The forerunner of this website was created.
The first hurdle the complainants faced was to convince OPAS and the
Ombudsman's Office that their complaints deserved attention. The
record from the time,
and the advice to those
approaching OPAS, give a fuller account of the mood. To avoid
swamping the authorities with similar complaints, the complainants were
treated as a group by OPAS, and many other the group agreed that other
complaints, taken together, would subsume their complaint. That
successfully completed the phase of getting the complaints under the
jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, by early 2001. We do not know
of many more complaints since.
The complaints against IBM were complex and inter-related, so must
have represented a big task for the Ombudsman's Office. (The
office processes about ten new complaints per working day, so if they
were all like ours the system would collapse.) The complaints
dwelled for a while before being investigated, an investigator for them
all being assigned in March 2002. During this period there was
some communication with the Ombudsman's Office but most activity was
elsewhere. There was communication with the Office about the
administration of the complaints - the extent to which they were to be
treated independently even though they referenced and re-enforced one
another. The complainants feel they should not be fragmented but
they are being. Some have not yet reached the respondents
During this time MPs and the government were approached. Some
50 of the people who wrote to their MP also told us that they had.
This allowed us to send letters, as follow-up, to those MPs. The
difficulty then (and now) was the tendency for officials and MPs (with
honourable exceptions noted)
to say "let's see what the Ombudsman says first".
Discussion the message board continued, with various approaches to
the media essayed. Considerable information on the legal side was
gathered, about trust law, the potential for a breach of contract case,
the place of the Ombudsman in the legal system, the history of the
regulations, and the relevance of other cases like Barclays and
As a result of suggestions on the message board, the
Association of Members of IBM Pension Plans was formed. Government
reviews have asked for comments on potential new regulations, and AMIPP
has responded. AMIPP has joined the Confederation of Occupational
The position now, in the third quarter of 2002, is one of continuing
to wait. No doubt the complainants are busy exploring detail with
the Ombudsman's Legal Adviser but confidentiality prevents them telling
us about that. There has been a report from the government's
Pickering Review in mid-2002 and in time this will lead to new laws. What we learn from the Ombudsman's
determinations will be limited by what he chooses to put writing - the
details of the investigation will remain confidential. However, we
should have the beginnings of a picture of whether there is any consumer
protection for scheme members like us, and if there is very little,
whether that is due to shortcomings in the regulations or in how the
Ombudsman can operate.