Pensions

The Pensions Group is a full service pensions practice of specialist pensions lawyers (rated Tier 1 by Legal 500 EMEA, 2015 and Band 1 by Chambers Europe, 2015) with long experience and a proven track record.

We represent clients in all sectors – sponsoring employers (Irish and multinational plcs/private companies), scheme trustees and members/individuals. 

We have a strong commitment to service and excellence in everything we do. 

The Pensions Group provides both general and project specific pensions advice including:

  • Pension scheme design and planning (eg defined benefit and defined contribution schemes, PRSAs)
  • Documentation (eg drafting, amending and reviewing trust deeds, explanatory booklets)
  • Revenue Commissioners and Pensions Authority approvals (eg registering schemes, obtaining tax clearance, consents, dealing with regulator’s queries)
  • Trustees duties and obligations (eg what trustees should do, member trustees, scope of obligations)
  • Trusteeship (eg trustee training, compliance with pensions legislation, attendance at trustees meetings)
  • Disputes and complaints (eg dealing with complaints to the Pensions Ombudsman, Pensions Authority investigations, pensions litigation in the Courts)
  • Changes to schemes including restructuring/derisking (eg moving from defined benefit to defined contribution or hybrid arrangements, closing schemes to new members, benefit structure changes, altering contribution levels, freezing schemes, new pension arrangements for future service, winding up and creating new schemes, issues for trustees)
  • Investment management/custodianship (eg preparing agreements, reviewing reports)
  • Equality issues (eg equal treatment between men and women, ageism)
  • Scheme mergers and winding up (eg priority of payments, dealing with financial deficit)
  • Company M&As and outsourcings (eg pensions due diligence, warranties, transfer arrangements in both Irish and multi-jurisdictional transactions)
  • Pensions aspects of insolvency (eg advising liquidators/administrators of insolvent companies on pensions)
  • Retirement planning (eg tax aspects, Approved Retirement Funds (ARFs), annuities)
  • Pension products (eg sales and related documentation)
  • EU cross-border pension schemes (eg Irish and non Irish cross-border schemes, social and labour laws, interaction issues)

Our added value offerings

We provide a range of publications on pensions, including “Pensions in Ireland” and “ARIA/Pensions Health Check” and news updates in our pensions e-zines and client bulletins.  We also host regular pensions briefings, seminars and roundtable discussions for clients and pensions industry groups.

Our commitment to the pensions industry

We are actively involved in the pensions industry and participate at committee level in the Irish Association of Pensions Funds, the Association of Pension Lawyers in Ireland and other Irish/international pensions interest groups. 

Our experience includes advising: 

  • the trustees of the Aviva Ireland Staff Pension Fund on a scheme reconstruction, including negotiations on future employer contributions and a parent company financial undertaking.
  • the trustees of the Hitachi High Technologies Ireland Plan on a pension scheme reorganisation involving three separate legacy schemes.
  • IAG, the parent company British Airways, on the pensions aspects of its takeover of Aer Lingus.
  • The Irish Times on a pension scheme reorganisation involving the transition from a DB to a DC arrangement and negotiations for the winding up of a DB scheme.
  • Nestlé European Pension Fund, an EU cross-border scheme, on its Irish membership section.
  • Phillips 66 on a pension scheme separation on the sale of its oil storage operation at Bantry Bay, including negotiations with the scheme trustees and advice on a parent company guarantee.
  • the trustees of the Pratt & Whitney Aviation Plan on the winding up of a DB scheme, including complex negotiations on a final employer contribution and parent company indemnity.
  • Premier Lotteries (Ireland) Limited on the pensions aspects of its acquisition of the Irish national lottery licence and the related transition from a public sector to a private sector pension arrangement.

Defined Benefit Reform Disappearing Act – Committee Stage Comeback?

The Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017 - Defined benefit reforms removed from Pensions Bill for the moment.


Pensions: Legislation Programme Spring/Summer 2017

Bills currently before the Oireachtas and Bills expected to be published


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Department

  • Interviewees say the group is "very capable, pragmatic and customer-focused. They bring a wealth of experience to employment and pensions law issues and provide responsive, practical and effective solutions to critical issues." Sources explain that the "partners are receptive, responsive, experienced and provide added value, as well as very good legal advice. There is a good breadth and depth in terms of back-up resources, and all cross-border work is handled expertly.Chambers Europe 2017
  • Key contacts include the ‘very experienced’ Michael Wolfe and the ‘insightful’ Liam Connellan, as well as Maura Roe, whom one client calls ‘the foremost expert in Ireland on shares and share options’Legal 500 EMEA 2017 
  • "The firm's advice is of the highest quality and based on solid research and case studies. It is also highly tailored and relevant. Working with this firm is an educational experience.Chambers Europe, 2016
  • "I would rate William Fry's performance very highly. Apart from mastery of the technical aspects of the work, I find the firm pragmatic and commercial when it comes to pension-related matters and it acts as a partner to us in delivering optimal solutions." Chambers Europe, 2016
  • The ‘very commercial’ team at William Fry is headed by Michael Wolfe. Legal 500 EMEA, 2016
  • "This team asks the right questions to get to the heart of the issue. The lawyers are technically excellent and bring pragmatic solutions to our clients."  Chambers Europe, 2015 
  • "Great breadth of experience, and a high level of responsiveness."  Chambers Europe, 2015
  • William Fry’s ‘responsive and reliable’ team. Legal 500 EMEA, 2015
  • "The team has a very in-depth knowledge of the law and a clear understanding of our agenda - I have never had occasion to regret our choice"  Chambers Europe, 2014
  • "William Fry's service cannot be faulted." Legal 500 EMEA, 2014
  • Sources say: “A well-connected practice that really tries to understand its clients. I have yet to give the lawyers a scenario which has stumped them – you can always find an expert in your area.”   Chambers Europe, 2013
  • William Fry provides the ‘highest quality of service’ under pensions head Michael Wolfe. Legal 500 EMEA, 2012
  • William Fry advises in ‘a clear and pragmatic way'.  Legal 500 EMEA, 2012

 

Team

  • Michael Wolfe
    • Key contacts include the ‘very experienced’ Michael Wolfe. Legal 500 EMEA 2017 
    • Sources state: "He has great knowledge of the industry in Ireland and comes up with creative solutions for difficult problems." Chambers Europe, 2016
    • Michael Wolfe is known for his "fantastic experience and good client manner."Chambers Europe, 2015
    • Michael Wolfe ‘combines technical strength with relationship skills’. Legal 500 EMEA, 2015 
    • Michael Wolfe is praised by clients as one of the best pensions lawyers in Ireland: "He understands the whole project; he looks at all the elements and takes them into consideration and is very commercial in the advice he gives." Chambers Europe, 2014 
    • According to an impressed client, “he thinks outside the box and comes up with usable solutions." Another adds: "He has the ability to resolve division and conflict between parties.”  Chambers Europe, 2013
    • Michael Wolfe is praised for 'his independence of mind and ability to resolve divisions between trustees'. Legal 500 EMEA, 2013
    • Michael Wolfe is ‘an excellent pensions lawyer’. Legal 500 EMEA, 2012
    • ‘He is extremely experienced and his advice is legally and tactically spot-on,’ according to clientsChambers Europe, 2012
  • Liam Connellan
    • Clients say that Liam Connellan is "very personable, business-oriented and attentive." Chambers Europe 2017
    • Key contacts include the ‘insightful’ Liam Connellan. Legal 500 EMEA 2017 
    • According to clients Liam is "highly knowledgeable and consistently willing to consider a variety of viewpoints to ensure that the advice is fit for purpose."Chambers Europe, 2016
    • Liam Connellan provides ‘expert guidance'. Legal 500 EMEA, 2015
    • Liam Connellan is a pensions expert with "a very pragmatic approach to resolving pension issues for our clients' businesses. He has been a real benefit to us on occasions when we might be dealing with a prospect and need to sense-check a particular point."  Chambers Europe, 2015
    • Liam Connellan is commended by peers as a "safe pair of hands." Chambers Europe, 2014 

Key Contacts

Michael Wolfe Partner

Liam Connellan Partner

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