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German pension association fears EIOPA ‘back door’ IORP II move

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Germany’s occupational pensions association, aba, has called on EIOPA and ”other institutions” to respect the timeline for a review of the new IORP II Directive, stating that a recent proposal from the former shows that the “Damocles sword” of solvency requirements still hangs over the industry.

In an analysis of the revised EU Directive for Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORPs), the final proposal for which was agreed in June, the association said the Directive will lead to higher standards in the areas of governance, risk management, and information.

However, it will not trigger large growth in the number of IORPs in Germany or spur a boom in cross-border activity, according to aba.

It noted that IORP II did not introduce new solvency requirements for workplace pension providers, which it said would have made occupational pension provision considerably more costly, and unnecessarily so.

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However, it considers that the “Damocles sword” of such requirements still hangs over the industry, citing an April 2016 recommendation from the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) for a common framework for risk assessment and transparency for IORPs.

The proposal met with criticism by some in the industry when it was first released, and aba has also come out against the proposal, seeing it as equivalent to EIOPA’s Holistic Balance Sheet approach, and therefore “old wine in new bottles”.

An important aspect from aba’s perspective is that under EIOPA’s proposal, national supervisory authorities should be able to take regulatory action against individual IORPs based on the results of the proposed risk assessment framework.

The association fears that EIOPA would try to implement its common framework recommendation through Article 29 of the IORP II Directive, which sets out the requirement for own risk assessments by IORPs. 

In its analysis of the final proposal for the new IORP Directive, aba noted that it is down to Member States to require and ensure IORPs fulfil the own risk assessment requirements, and that neither the European Commission nor EIOPA are given any role to play in this regard.

The final draft also stripped the Commission of the ability to pass delegated acts once the final draft had been agreed by the European Parliament, making it near impossible for EIOPA to impose new technical standards at a later date.

“We hope that the implementation details will be specified by the individual Member States and that Article 29 of IORP II will not leave open the back door for EIOPA to introduce the common framework,” said the association.

Aba said that such a move would be “decidedly against European lawmakers’ intention”, with use of the Holistic Balance Sheet precisely not provided for by the IORP II Directive.

The preamble to the finalised IORP II Directive includes a strong statement against “further development at Union level of solvency models”, and the final proposal for the new legislation also omits quantitative requirements – seen as potentially amounting to solvency requirements – from the scope of the post-implementation review of the IORP II Directive.

The proposal for the new Directive foresees the review taking place six years after its entry into force, and aba said “this provision from European lawmakers should be respected by all institutions, and accordingly therefore also by EIOPA”. 

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