The pension trustee who oversaw negotiations with Sir Philip Green over BHS’s retirement scheme deficit was parachuted in to advise on the crisis at Carillion days before the construction group collapsed.
Sky News has learnt that Independent Trustee Services (ITS), which is run by Chris Martin, was appointed earlier this month to help safeguard the interests of more than 28,000 pension scheme members at Carillion.
While ITS was appointed prior to the Government contractor’s liquidation – when faint hopes remained of a solvent solution to the crisis – sources said that Mr Martin would have an ongoing role until Carillion’s retirement schemes are absorbed by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).
The appointment underlines Mr Martin’s track record of being drafted in to deal with some of Britain’s messiest corporate insolvencies.
He became a central figure in attempts by regulators to secure hundreds of millions of pounds from Sir Philip, the high street billionaire, following BHS’s collapse into administration in 2016.
Sir Philip ultimately agreed to contribute up to £363m to the department store chain’s pension fund, and Mr Martin is understood to remain as a trustee of the newly formed scheme.
Mr Martin was also involved with the restructuring of the pension scheme at Halcrow Group, an engineering consultancy, in 2016.
At Carillion, there are 13 separate pension schemes, a legacy of the string of big takeovers of leading industrial names which created Britain’s second-biggest construction group.
By the time it was declared insolvent on Monday, it had amassed 450 Government contracts from departments across Whitehall.
The company’s demise has sparked a furious political row over the involvement of the private sector in the delivery of public services, and its ramifications could make it one of the most significant corporate collapses in Britain for decades.
Last Friday, an urgent summit involving Carillion’s pension trustees, The Pensions Regulator, the PPF and Cabinet Office was held to try to find a solution to the conflicting interests of the pension schemes and the cash-starved company.
In a witness statement, Carillion’s interim chief executive, Keith Cochrane, said the company had a defined benefit pension scheme deficit of £587m when it collapsed.
However, the cost to the PPF of paying compensation to the schemes’ members is expected to be as high as £920m, according to insiders.
A source close to the Carillion schemes said on Thursday: “Chris was brought in specifically to see if a solvent solution could be found.
“Given his 25 years of experience, it is no coincidence that he became involved.
“He is used to working on high-profile, difficult jobs like this.”
In a statement issued when Carillion went bust, a spokesman for the pension trustees said they had been “very closely involved in all discussions with stakeholders over the last few months”.
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Alan Rubenstein, the outgoing chief executive of the PPF, told the Financial Times on Thursday that Carillion had been on its watchlist since last autumn, when it issued the second in a series of profit warnings.
Mr Martin could not be reached for comment.