Eastman Kodak fell into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in January and the Kodak Pension Plan (KPP) in the UK is the firm’s largest creditor.
The KPP trustees earlier this month hammered out a groundbreaking settlement that will transfer the ownership of businesses, Kodak’s personalised imaging unit and document-imaging arm, valued at $650m (£427m), to the pension scheme.
The completion of the deal will allow KPP to avoid having to enter the UK’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF) and enable it to offer members a new pension plan that KPP says will provide participants with better benefits than available under the PPF.
However, pensions expert John Ralfe, writing in the Financial Times, criticised the agreement, arguing it signified that the UK Pensions Regulator had ‘abandoned rule-based pension regulation’ and ‘given up on regulating pensions’.
Last week, Steven Ross, chairman of KPP Trustees, wrote to the FT claiming that Ralfe’s conclusions were ‘misjudged, wide of the mark and based upon inadequate research’.
Smithfield is advising the trustees on their comms with all principal stakeholders, including the members, regulators, MPs and the media.
The Smithfield team is being led by MD John Kiely and director Andrew Sharkey.
Kiely commented: ‘This is a groundbreaking transaction and one where the members of the scheme will have a real say in the future of their pension plan.
‘The work combines our expertise in pensions, where we are the market leader, and restructuring, which is now a core area of our business.’