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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
The pensioners' tale
Pensioners playing cards
Pensioners lived with the stress and fear they may lose their pension
More than 30,000 pensioners were left wondering what happened to their pensions when the Maxwell empire collapsed.

Shortly after Maxwell's death in November 1991, it emerged that about 440m was missing from the funds which were to provide pensions for employees of Maxwell Communications Corporation and Mirror Group Newspapers.

After a three-year campaign by the pensioners, the funds were largely recovered, thanks to a 100m government pay out and an out-of court settlement for 276m.

Many of them had worked for a company all their lives and faced the prospect of pensions disappearing

Tony Boram, Association of Mirror Pensioners

But the fear they would lose their pensions and the stress of the long campaign hit many people hard.

The settlement was reached in February 1995.

Paying the bill

Investment banks, accountants and what was left of Maxwell's media companies agreed to pay the pensioners, following 18 months of negotiation with government-appointed arbiter Sir John Cuckney.

Coopers & Lybrand, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers were among those who paid compensation.

Altogether 32,000 people were effected by the pension fund theft.

One campaigner said that Maxwell bought and sold so many companies that some people didn't even realise they worked for him until his death and the pension theft emerged.

Ken Trench, former chairman of the Maxwell Pensioners Action Group said: "The hardship they experienced was the worry that they were going to lose their pensions.
Kenneth Trench, Mirror Pensioners Group
Ken Trench chaired the Maxwell Pensioners Action Group

"There were husbands who had worked 30 years feeling they were secure, who thought that when they died their wives would receive or carry on receiving their pension," he said.

He added: "Any Maxwell pensioner who died during those four years, died feeling that he had not properly provided for his wife. That must be terrible."

Suspicions

Ironically, even before Robert Maxwell's death, some pensioners had suspected that something was amiss with the pension funds and had started a court case.

Tony Boram, whose study is still stacked with legal papers from that time, is chairman of the Association of Mirror Pensioners.

He said: "We started chasing Maxwell a year or two before he died. We were concerned because he wasn't giving us increases we thought we were entitled to. There were rumours that he had received pension money to finance redundancies."

Harassment

In the months prior to his death, Robert Maxwell, aware that Boram was organising a legal action about the pension fund, rang him whenever a negative article appeared in the press.

"He would constantly phone and harass me....I had retired and hadn't worked for him...he would ring me up at eight o clock in the morning [and say] why are you doing this to me, it is all lies," Boram recounted.

Unlike many other Maxwell pensioners, Mirror Group pensioners did have the background protection of the Mirrror Group company.

"Those who were most anxious were the members of smaller schemes which didn't have the protection we had," he said.

"It was stressful...Many of them had worked for a company all their lives and faced the prospect of pensions disappearing completely," he said.

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