Pensions

The Pensions Group is a full service pensions practice of specialist pensions lawyers 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. 

We are one of only three law firms who are registered trainers for pension scheme trustees with the Irish Pensions Authority.

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

  • Pension scheme design and planning (e.g. defined benefit and defined contribution schemes, PRSAs)
  • Documentation (e.g. drafting, amending and reviewing trust deeds, explanatory booklets)
  • Revenue Commissioners and Pensions Authority approvals (e.g. registering schemes, obtaining tax clearance, consents, dealing with regulator’s queries)
  • Trustees duties and obligations (e.g. what trustees should do, member trustees, scope of obligations)
  • Trusteeship (e.g. trustee training, compliance with pensions legislation, attendance at trustees meetings)
  • Disputes and complaints (e.g. dealing with complaints to the Pensions Ombudsman, Pensions Authority investigations, pensions litigation in the Courts)
  • Changes to schemes including restructuring/derisking (e.g. 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 (e.g. preparing agreements, reviewing reports)
  • Equality issues (e.g. equal treatment between men and women, ageism)
  • Scheme mergers and winding up (e.g. priority of payments, dealing with financial deficit)
  • Company M&As and outsourcing's (e.g. pensions due diligence, warranties, transfer arrangements in both Irish and multi-jurisdictional transactions)
  • Pensions aspects of insolvency (e.g. advising liquidators/administrators of insolvent companies on pensions)
  • Retirement planning (e.g. tax aspects, Approved Retirement Funds (ARF's), annuities)
  • Pension products (e.g. sales and related documentation)
  • EU cross-border pension schemes (e.g. 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.

New Rules of Engagement for Pension Trustees? – Implications of the Second Shareholders' Rights Directive

We examine the new transparency obligations for pension schemes under Directive (EU) 2017/828.


The Pandemic & Pensions: Key Issues for Pension Trustees and Employers

We examine the key issues for pension trustees and employers in responding to the current and future challenges facing pension schemes as the COVID-19 crisis develops.


The Home Front: Remote Working Guidance for Employers

As thousands of people begin to work remotely, we share our top 5 best practice tips for employers adopting home-working practices


Spring Pensions Briefing

In our Spring Pensions Briefing, our team consider the likely implications of the McCloud and Bauer cases on the Irish pensions regime, and provide an update on some key regulatory developments.


Employment & Benefits 12 Days of Christmas - 2020

In the final instalment of our 12 Days of Christmas series, we look at some developments that we can expect in 2020.


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Department

  • The employee benefits team in William Fry "has a wealth of experience in dealing with complex employee share schemes and are pragmatic and solutions focused in navigating challenges. The team also have good contacts with other service providers in this area and their recommendations are very helpful." One client adds that they have "great depth in the team and great commitment to finding sustainable solutions." Legal 500 2020
  • "I really trust their judgement," says an impressed client, adding: "They are innovative in mitigating risk and they make complex things seem straightforward." Another source is emphatic in their praise for the lawyers: "Their advice is very thorough and the team is extremely responsive. It is the personal touch I am most impressed with." Chambers Europe 2020
  • An interviewee appreciates the team's "very clear and uncomplicated advice". Another source is grateful that the lawyers "are really approachable and speak in layman's terms, highlighting the associated risks". Chambers 2019
  • William Fry impresses with its ‘highly engaged and customised advice’, which makes ‘for thoughtful and efficient discussions and planning of the next stages’. Legal 500 EMEA 2019 
  • A client notes: "Their work in my experience has always been of the highest quality. The advice is practical and relevant and always geared towards the best interests of the client," adding: "They have an in-depth knowledge of our business which guarantees that the advice provided is always relevant." Another client says: "Not only are they extremely knowledgeable, innovative in their advice and commercially minded, they are also a down-to-earth, unassuming and approachable team of solicitors." Chambers Europe, 2018 
  • 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  ‘insightful’, 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

Team 

Ian Devlin

  • Head of pensions Ian Devlin is widely revered by the market and offers assistance to employers and trustees in all areas of the field. "He's a pensions expert; he can make the area accessible and tells you what you need to know without bogging you down in the detail," appreciates one client. Chambers Europe 2020
  • According to Legal 500 2020, "Ian Devlin has an excellent knowledge of the law and is very commercially minded and responsive." Another client adds that Ian "has a fantastic commercial mindset and his experience enables him to move very quickly to the best outcome for all parties."
  • Ian heads the pensions department. He is a highly regarded practitioner with experience assisting trustees with transaction-related projects as well as wind-ups. He also advises on governance topics and regulatory obligations. Chambers Europe 2019
  • Clients say Ian's "knowledge and advice were invaluable" and praise his "calm and measured approach.  He is very commercial in adapting things to the real world."  Chambers Europe 2016

Michael Wolfe

  • Michael continues to impress the market with his unrivaled experience in the pensions arena. One client describes him as "top of his area of expertise," while another appreciates his "level of detail, swiftness of response and clarity." Chambers Europe 2019 
  • 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

Key Contacts

Ian Devlin Partner

Michael Wolfe Consultant

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