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Year of Call:
2018 (Solicitor since 1997)
Philip Stear’s practice involves the interaction of commercial trusts, insolvency and contract law, with a particular focus on disputes arising in relation to occupational pension schemes.
Philip joined Outer Temple Chambers on Call in November 2018, having been a solicitor in Travers Smith LLP’s highly ranked pensions practice for more than twenty years, thirteen of them as a partner. In his early career he was a Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol (specialising in the law of contract and the law of trusts) from 1992 to 1995, and then part-time (with a special focus on pensions law) from 2000 until 2004.
Philip is an acknowledged expert in relation to technical pensions law and regulatory practice, and combines this with long practical experience of occupational pension schemes and the practical challenges they face in relation to governance and trusteeship, benefit design and modification, funding and security and member communications and disputes. He also maintains a wide and deep knowledge of the broader legal landscape. Clients prize him as a solution-oriented lateral thinker able to find ways to unlock the knottiest problems.
As a result of his long experience at the coalface of occupational pension schemes (including acting for the trustees of some of the UK’s largest pension schemes), Philip brings to his pensions practice:
- acute sensitivity to the practical challenges faced by pension scheme trustees and employers as a result of their different perspectives, and to the need to manage conflicts of interest arising from trustee roles pragmatically and to evaluate sensitively the pros and cons of court proceedings in relation to a matter;
- the ability to think “out of the box” and to originate and evaluate innovative approaches; and
- the willingness to work collaboratively and inclusively as part of a wider team, including not only trustee committees and employer representatives but also other legal advisers, actuaries and covenant advisers.
Recent work as a solicitor included:
- advising trustees in relation to the three-way merger of the MGN Pension Schemes (including the Mirror Group Pension Scheme, the scheme famously raided by Robert Maxwell in 1991). The merger raised complex security issues as a result of differences in the legacy schemes’ protection under pensions legislation;
- advising the trustees of the Akzo Nobel (CPS) Pension Scheme (historically Courtaulds) in relation to a funding negotiation. The valuation was called by the trustees as a result of the disposal by Akzo Nobel of significant corporate assets, and involved the re-evaluation of an overseas (EU) parent company via a guarantee and other security instruments and the interpretation of a unique scheme employer contribution rule;
- advising the trustees of the UBM Pension Scheme in relation to the recommended offer for UBM by Informa Group plc. This involved the evaluation of Informa Group’s plans for integration of the UBM business and the likely effects on the covenant supporting the pension scheme, the development of a negotiating position for the trustees in the takeover negotiations and the negotiation of security instruments for the trustees
- advising the trustees of the main pension scheme sponsored by Dow Chemical in relation to its merger (on a fully sectionalised basis) with the Dow Corning Pension Plan.
Philip also has extensive experience advising pension scheme trustees in relation to cases involving:
- gender equality: the equalisation of scheme benefits for men and women (including the elimination of GMP-related inequalities)
- RPI/CPI: the scope for trustees and employers to alter the index used by a pension scheme for the uprating of benefits as a result of inflation
- construction and rectification: the interpretation of ambiguous or contentious scheme provisions and the correction of earlier mistakes in drafting
- member disputes: disputes about benefits due under pension scheme rules, including complaints to the Pensions Ombudsman (and appeals against adverse determinations to the High Court) and proceedings in the High Court
- employer debts: assessment of options and consequences when statutory debts are triggered under the employer debt regime
- insolvency and employer distress: the actual or potential assumption of responsibility for a scheme by the Pension Protection Fund
- the Pensions Regulator: regulatory action against trustees or employers brought or threatened by the Pensions Regulator, including intervention in scheme valuations
Philip has been a sought-after conference and seminar speaker within both the Association of Pensions Lawyers (“APL”) and Pension and Lifetime Savings Association (“PLSA”, formerly the National Association of Pension Funds (“NAPF”)). He has served on numerous committees, most recently the APL’s Main Committee (2016 to 2018) and the PLSA’s Legal Panel, and was for a time editor of Pension Lawyer, the APL’s journal. He has also frequently contributed articles to the pensions trade press.
Philip’s Commercial and Chancery practice reflects his wide experience while at Travers Smith of the broader commercial and legal context in which his clients operate, as well as his extensive knowledge of contract and trusts law. He has particular experience in relation to:
- sale and purchase agreements in M&A transactions, including agreements to which trustees of private trusts are party as buyer or seller
- guarantees and other security instruments; and
- outsourcing agreements and commercial contracts.
Appointments & Memberships
In 2018, Philip was awarded the APL’s Wallace Medal, an award recognising excellence in legal writing by members of the APL.
Philip Stear is regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and holds a current practising certificate. If you are not satisfied with the service provided, please click here.
Areas of Law
“has an enormous mind for legal work, great ability and is charming to deal with” Pensions, Chambers and Partners 2018
“very thorough very focussed” Pensions, Chambers and Partners 2017
“genuinely exceptional” Pensions, Legal 500 2016
“a very able technical lawyer and a good communicator” Pensions, Chambers and Partners 2015
“able to simplify incredibly complex legislation” Pensions, Chambers and Partners 2014