Thursday, 25 January 2018

Failing companies and pension funds

Among the casualties of the Carillion crash, along with sub-contractors and their suppliers, are pension funds. David Thorpe, writing in Liberal Democrat Voice, makes a suggestion which would go some way to protecting the latter:

At present, if a company goes bust, the first entity to be paid is the administrator, then the taxman, then the secured creditors, often banks, then the unsecured creditors, which includes the pension fund, and finally, the shareholders.
In this corporate structure, the power is in practice with the secured creditors (the taxman only becomes involved when they don't get paid, the banks can be engaged regularly with the company), so policy makers should act to ensure that all existing pension funds of UK-listed companies are treated as secured creditors, with at least the same seniority as the banks; this would give the trustees of the pension funds far more influence over how the capital generated by the company is distributed before there is a major problem, and put the hard working pensioners much nearer the front of the queue if the company in question turns into another Carillion. 

Incidentally, as recounted by Margareta Pagano in the London Evening Standard and in the i yesterday, a prominent Liberal Democrat supporter, Paul Marshall, was one of those who spotted that Carillion was in terminal decline. His hedge fund, Marshall Wace, made money for its clients by "shorting" Carillion stock last year. I would like to think that, if a Liberal Democrat had been Chancellor last year, no more government contracts would have gone to Carillion from mid-2017 on.

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