IAS 19, para 136, disclosure of disagreement with trustees over discretionary increase and legal action

International Consolidated Airlines Group, S.A. – Annual report – 31 December 2018

Industry: airline

30 Employee benefit obligations (extract)
Defined benefit schemes
i APS and NAPS
The principal funded defined benefit pension schemes within the Group are the Airways Pension Scheme (APS) and the New Airways Pension Scheme (NAPS), both of which are in the UK and are closed to new members. NAPS was closed to future accrual from March 31, 2018, resulting in a reduction of the defined benefit obligation. Following closure members’ deferred pensions will now be increased annually by inflation up to five per cent per annum (measured using CPI), which is generally lower than the previous assumption for pay growth which included pay rises and promotions. NAPS members were offered a choice of transition arrangements, including non-cash options to increase their NAPS pensions prior to closure. The financial effect of the closure and the non-cash transition arrangements was a past service gain of €872 million which has been presented as an exceptional item net of transition costs of €192 million which were paid either directly to members or into their pension accounts. British Airways currently makes deficit contributions to NAPS of €333 million per annum until September 2027 plus additional contributions of up to €167 million per year depending on the cash balance at the end of March each year. As part of the closure of NAPS, British Airways agreed to make certain additional transition payments to NAPS members if the deficit had reduced more than expected at either the 2018 or 2021 valuations. No allowance for such payments has been made in the valuation of the defined benefit obligation.

APS has been closed to new members since 1984. The benefits provided under APS are based on final average pensionable pay and, for the majority of members, are subject to inflationary increases in payment in line with the Government’s Pension Increase (Review) Orders (PIRO), which are based on CPI.

The Trustee of APS has proposed an additional discretionary increase above CPI inflation for pensions in payment for the year to March 31, 2014. British Airways challenged the decision and initiated legal proceedings to determine the legitimacy of the discretionary increase. The High Court issued a judgement in May 2017, which determined that the Trustee had the power to grant discretionary increases, whilst reiterating the Trustee must take into consideration all relevant factors, and ignore irrelevant factors. British Airways appealed the judgement to the Court of Appeal. On July 5, 2018 the Court of Appeal released its judgement, upholding British Airways’ appeal, concluding the Trustee did not have the power to introduce a discretionary increase rule. Following the judgement, the Trustee was allowed permission to appeal to the Supreme Court; the Trustee has appealed. The delayed 2015 triennial valuation will be completed once the outcome of the appeal is known. British Airways is committed to an existing recovery plan, which sees deficit payments of €61 million per annum until March 2023.

APS and NAPS are governed by separate Trustee Boards, although much of the business of the two schemes is common. Most main Board and committee meetings are held in tandem although each Trustee Board reaches its decisions independently. There are three sub committees which are separately responsible for the governance, operation and investments of each scheme. British Airways Pension Trustees Limited holds the assets of both schemes on behalf of their respective Trustees.

Deficit payment plans are agreed with the Trustees of each scheme every three years based on the actuarial valuation (triennial valuation) rather than the IAS 19 accounting valuation. The latest deficit recovery plan was agreed on the March 31, 2012 position with respect to APS and March 31, 2015 with respect to NAPS (note 30i). The actuarial valuations performed at March 31, 2012 and March 31, 2015 are different to the valuation performed at December 31, 2018 under IAS 19 ‘Employee benefits’ mainly due to timing differences of the measurement dates and to the specific scheme assumptions in the actuarial valuation compared with IAS 19 guidance used in the accounting valuation assumptions. For example, IAS 19 requires the discount rate to be based on corporate bond yields regardless of how the assets are actually invested, which may not result in the calculations in this report being a best estimate of the cost to the Company of providing benefits under either Scheme. The investment strategy of each Scheme is likely to change over its life, so the relationship between the discount rate and the expected rate of return on each Scheme’s assets may also change.

31 Contingent liabilities and guarantees (extract)
Pensions
The Trustees of the Airways Pension Scheme (APS) had proposed an additional discretionary increase above CPI for pensions in payment for the year to March 31, 2014. British Airways challenged the decision and initiated legal proceedings to determine the legitimacy of the discretionary increase. The outcome of the legal proceedings was issued in May 2017, which concluded the Trustees had the power to grant discretionary increases, whilst reiterating they must take into consideration all relevant factors,
and ignore irrelevant factors. The Group appealed the judgement to the Court of Appeal. On July 5, 2018 the Court of Appeal released its judgement, upholding British Airways’ appeal, concluding the Trustee did not have the power to introduce a discretionary increase rule. British Airways will not have to reflect the increase in liabilities of €13 million that would have applied had the proposed increase for the 2013/14 scheme year been paid by the Trustee. The Trustee has appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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