The Queen’s Bench Division of the U.K.’s High Court of Justice recently approved a scheme proposed by Scottish Equitable Plc to transfer its liabilities as to over 185,000 insurance policies to Rothesay Life Plc. The scheme was backed by roughly £7 billion in assets paid to Rothesay under a series of annuity reinsurance and business transfer agreements executed in April 2016.
The court’s approval was guided by eight principles used by British courts in assessing long-term business transfer plans. While the primary factor is whether the scheme would adversely impact policyholders, the court held that a scheme will not be rejected simply because it may adversely affect certain policyholders. Instead, viewed as a whole, the scheme must be objectively “fair.” The court also noted that a proposal will not be rejected solely because it is not the “best possible scheme,” stating that deference should be given to the company’s choice of schemes, provided that choice is objectively fair. The court rejected policyholders’ objections, finding the proposed scheme was sufficient to protect policyholders’ interests. The court also rejected the argument that the scheme was not the “transfer of a business” under the FSMA simply because the policies were being reinsured, finding that the transaction did not need to expose Scottish Equitable to “risk or reward” to qualify as the transfer of its “business.” See ,  EWHC 1439 (Ch).