The Association of Members of
IBM UK Pension Plans (AMIPP)
 
The story about events leading up to the current situation.

 

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 Chairman's Report.

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. 

Oct 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.

One 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 for comment.

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 Equitable.

 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 Pensioners' Associations.

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.