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Pension Regulator notes

What level of openness, awareness, numeracy and statistical literacy should one expect of a regulator?

I first expressed concerns to TPR about obstacles to my performing my fiduciary duty as a USS non-executive director on 20 March 2018. On 1 April 2019, more than a year later, TPR invited USS to investigate my complaint. On 27 March 2020, TPR informed me that USS had reported that it it did not find itself guilty. I was not allowed to see any reports, nor was I given a single reason to explain why USS was allowed to withhold information from a non-executive director. TPR also stated that they did not regard any of the information I had provided as evidence I was mistreated as a whistle-blower: what I had provided was, according to TPR, merely assertion, conjecture or my own analysis.

Numeracy and statistical literacy

Is anyone worried by a regulator who misses out 10% to 17% of income?

TPR announced that its code of practice on DB funding `may cover the “standards of conduct and practice expected”. TPR published a corporate strategy discussion document, “Pensions of the future - A discussion on our strategy”. It claimed to be interested in "the principles that should underpin all valuations in the revised framework. " It appeared that accurate information is not one of TPR's principle, as this consultation document included a substantially misleading graphic which omitted at least 10% of pension income. The error was obvious, and the Office for Statistics Regulation were satisfied that TPR had taken advice on clarity and documentation of methods and sources on board.

You can decided for yourselves whether the picture (sic) in the some what useful blog written after the consultation, which implies that DB funds are typically have assess of less that a third of their Technical Provisions funding requirement suggests that TPR is interested in accurate graphics and clear communication. (What does '100% low dependency' mean?)

Awareness

Does anyone mind a UK regulator which ignores international evidence?

The "Defined benefit funding code of practice consultation" failed to reference The World Bank's 2017 publication:

The Evolution of the Canadian Pension Model
Practical Lessons for Building World-class Pension Organizations.

My experience of TPR in relation to USS is that TPR wants to move USS from a Mature Entity to a Pre-reform entity, shown in Figure ES.2.

Openness

A meeting was organised by the Newton Gateway to Mathematics and the Royal Statistical Society on Mathematics and Statistics for Effective regulation. The report of meeting shows that regulators for medicines and medical devices, and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence are committed to communicating their reasons. The Forensic Science Regulator has developed standards for reporting of evidence. Data analysts from the Civil Service provide publicly accessible tools to help address uncertainty in decision-making. Most of the talks were recorded, and are available at the website linked above.

TRP refused permission for their staff to record or even contribute a paragraph to the report.

What USS has said about TPR.

In January 2019, USS stated in a consultation document included: "gilts + 1.20% was outside TPR's acceptable range"*. The Pensions Regulator's Annual Funding Statement 2019 included: "We do not assess the appropriateness of schemes' TPs or discount rates based on predetermined relationships to gilt yields or other indices."

The FT subsequently revealed that TPR had informed USS on 8 January 2019 that the statement * was incorrect.

In March 2021, USS has issued a valuation under rule 76.1, which allows the Trustee to impose a valuation despite the objections of employers. It is asserted that contributions of at least 42.1% are required.

"In reaching our position, we have had intensive discussions with The Pensions Regulator on the overall risk being taken in funding members’ benefits relative to the strength of the covenant and the additional support that could yet be provided by employers." USS

"The more positive outcomes shown in the 76.1 report, including the 42.1% contribution rate, represent the limit of what we understand the regulator would regard as compliant with the relevant legislation, " USS

I wonder whether USS has received another complaint about misrepresenting the regulator? The massive hike in estimated deficit in autumn 2017 came from the so-called `de-risking' which USS put into the valuation. Compare the claims about 'de-risking' with statements in the blog written after the DB consultation:

"It seemed elegant to us that a truly open scheme could not mature, would not be expected to de-risk and would be able to continue to invest in a long-term way." TPR

"One of the benefits of being a long-term investor is that you can take advantage of the additional premium that being able to hold less liquid assets brings you. We are supportive of this and there is nothing in our funding consultation that means schemes will need to stop investing in illiquids as some have said." TPR