EUROPE – Brussels is aware of an alleged letter sent to a French pension fund "advising" it to keep its activities within the country and is currently investigating whether EU law has been breached, according to Jung-Duk Lichtenberger, a member of the insurance and pensions unit at the European Commission.
Earlier this month, IPE revealed that UMR, a €10.2bn pension fund in France, put plans to launch a cross-border fund in Belgium on hold after allegedly receiving a letter from the Autorité de Contrôle des Assurances et des Mutuelles (ACAM).
The regulator is understood to have "advised" UMR to drop its plan to launch an organisation for financing pensions (OFP) fund in Belgium.
A number of lawyers have argued that the ACAM's alleged actions could constitute a breach of the EU Treaty.
Hans Van Meerten, head of the international pension practice at law firm Clifford Chance in Amsterdam, said the ACAM, being an organ of the French member state, had a duty to comply with EU law and more especially with the principle of loyal cooperation established within the European treaty.
"The principles are laid down in articles 49 and 56 of the treaty, which relate to the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services, respectively," he said.
"The treaty clearly stipulates that, in principle, these freedoms should not be hindered in any way."
Earlier this month, a source familiar with the situation told IPE that UMR received the letter from the French regulator last summer as the scheme was set to launch an OFP in Belgium in September.
The source said the letter in itself did not constitute a formal interdiction preventing UMR from moving its activities to Belgium.
However, the source also said it would be "unwise" for UMR to ignore the letter, in light of its future activities in France.
Contacted by IPE last week, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) declined to comment on the case, with a spokeswoman pointing out that the authority was "unable to intervene in the daily business of its members".