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Netherlands to raise bar for cross-border pension transfers

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The Dutch government wants to set additional conditions for pension funds moving assets out of the Netherlands to access more flexible regulatory environments abroad.

In an amendment to the implementation bill for the EU directive IORP II, social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees stipulated that a two-thirds majority of participants and pensioners must approve a cross-border collective value transfer.

The government also wanted to have the option of setting additional conditions through an implementation order if the cross-border transfer was aimed at accessing more flexible supervisory regime.

Last month, Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt raised concerns about cross-border transfers after it emerged that Aon Hewitt Netherlands’ pension scheme had seen its funding ratio improve by 11 percentage points following its move to Belgium. He claimed the move was “supervisory arbitrage”.

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During a debate in the Dutch parliament last night, Koolmees said the issue was one of the reasons that had triggered the government amendment.

However, the minister acknowledged that there could be legitimate reasons for cross-border value transfers, for example if multinational companies wanted to centralise pensions provision for their staff in a single country.

Aon’s UnitedPensions vehicle, domiciled in Belgium, has been one of the most active cross-border pension offerings, having signed up clients including chemicals giant Dow and pharmaceuticals company AbbVie.

According to Koolmees, the number of cross-border transfers of pensions had been limited so far, but he added that “the issue must remain a focal point to us all”.

The details of the government amendment were unclear, however, as it had yet to set a minimum number of participants that must respond to a proposal for a cross-border transfer.

In addition, the amendment did not include a reference to the role of a pension fund’s accountability body in approving a value transfer.

Related images

  • The Atomium in Brussels. Credit: Waldo Miguez

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