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Dutch regulator forced to pay €4.8m after failing to convince high court

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The Dutch regulator (DNB) has been ordered pay the pension fund of glass manufacturer Vereenigde Glasfabrieken €4.8m in compensation for having forced the scheme to divest most of its 15% gold allocation. 

In 2011, the DNB instructed the pension fund, SPVG, to reduce its gold allocation to 3% after deeming the investment a concentration risk – and gold a “speculative commodity without any intrinsic value”.

Gold prices soared after the forced divestment, and SPVG subsequently estimated its losses for missing out on the value increase at €9.5m, in addition to €1.5m for related costs. 

The DNB has failed to convince a Rotterdam-based court – and the now highest court in the Netherlands – that the glass scheme invested irresponsibly.

The high court said it noted that the gold had been sold in three stages, against a price that rose in each phase.

SPVG had based its claim on having divested all of its holdings against the maximum market value.

Eric Lutjens of law firm DLA Piper, the scheme’s legal adviser, said: “It is not unreasonable to assume the pension fund could already have sold its gold in an earlier stage. However, we are very pleased with the verdict.”

A spokesman for the DNB, however, described the ruling as “disappointing”.

He said the regulator would assess the verdict and consider a possible “follow-up”.

Meanwhile, SPVG has decided to liquidate itself and transfer the pension rights of its almost 3,000 participants to the €18bn industry-wide scheme for the printing sector, PGB, as of 1 October.

Last year, the scheme lost 11.2% on its investments, as it missed out on rising equity markets due to a relatively large stake in government bonds.

As a consequence, the scheme was forced to cut pension rights by 4.35%, despite an additional contribution from the employer of €7.5m, along with an extra €4.2m as a “dowry” for joining PGB.

At the time, it also guaranteed payment of the amount the pension fund expected to receive from the DNB.

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