ABP, the €356bn pension fund for Dutch civil servants, is seeking to negotiate “investment charters” with national governments to force them to keep their long-term promises.
ABP chair Corien Wortmann-Kool, speaking at the World Pension Summit in The Hague, said these agreements would prevent governments from undermining pension funds’ long-term investments with sudden changes in legislation.
She said pension funds were keen to increase their investments in infrastructure, climate and energy but wary of governments changing legislation and subsidy arrangements.
As an example, Wortmann-Kool cited an ABP investment in toll roads in France, where the government introduced limits for raising toll tariffs, which jeopardised the expected returns.
She said ABP also had a negative experience with its investments in solar power generation in Spain, with the government abolishing subsidies prematurely.
An investment charter with countries in which large-term investments are made should prevent governments from changing the rules for specified areas, in order to safeguard returns, she said.
Wortmann-Kool also argued that a government should pay compensation for violating the charter.
In her opinion, national governments would benefit from such agreements, as this would make investing more attractive.
ABP’s chair declined to say whether the absence of an agreement would make or break an investment decision, but she stressed that the scheme would not invest if there were too much uncertainty.
She said ABP had already started talks with the European Commission on the issue, as the EC’s €300bn investment plan had “triggered similar worries”.
Wortmann-Kool took pains to underline that the pension fund also wanted to rely on existing governments’ promises for projects related to the so-called Juncker Plan.
In the Netherlands, ABP is seeking to discuss the issue with the Ministry of Economic Affairs.