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17 August 2023

Court case against USS dismissed

"It will be clear to anyone reading the Court of Appeal’s detailed judgment that the underlying claims these individuals sought permission to pursue had absolutely no merit and they have rightly been dismissed – just as they were by Mr Justice Leech in the High Court. It is of deep regret that scheme funds – money intended to pay members’ pensions – have had to be spent defending this action, particularly when much of the material considered by the Courts in dismissing this case was readily and publicly available." USS spokesperson

The Court of Appeal recently dismissed an attempt by two members of the scheme, Dr McGaughey and Prof. Davies, to bring proceedings against a number of current and former directors of USS’s corporate trustee potentially using scheme funds to do so.

We know that some members have been taking a close interest in this case and the arguments being made by both the claimants and USS. We’ve collated a number of resources in relation to the case on this page - the two relevant court judgments are hopefully therefore more readily accessible.

Mr Justice Leech found against the claimants in the High Court in May 2022. This was on the basis he did not believe they had established the requisite points to be granted permission to take the case forward. In August 2022, Mr Justice Leech rejected their subsequent application for leave to appeal his judgment.

You can find the May 2022 judgement here and our statement responding to the judgment here.

The claimants turned to the Court of Appeal, which reviewed the judgment of Mr Justice Leech, and his findings, and considered whether it believed he was correct in his judgment. Over 2½ days in June 2023 the Court of Appeal heard from both the claimants’ and the Trustee’s legal teams. While the hearing was principally about the legal tests for whether the action should be allowed to proceed, it also considered the specific issues where the claimants sought to bring proceedings against the current and former USS directors.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the claimants’ appeal in full in July 2023, a costs award against the claimants to defray scheme costs has been made and the case will not proceed any further.

You can find the July 2023 judgement from Lady Asplin here and a helpful summary of the judgment from CMS (legal advisors to the Trustee) here. Our media comment on the judgement is at the top of this page.

Lady Asplin’s concluding remarks are worth noting:


187. In the light of my conclusions, I consider that the appeal should be dismissed on all grounds. I have been surprised that Dr McGaughey and Prof. Davies chose to bring this action in the form they did and to pursue it despite the fact that the judge flagged up what he saw as the difficulties at the initial stage when he considered it on paper.

Court case: Lawrence Ewan McGaughey & Anor v Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited & Ors

[2023] EWCA Civ 873