NETHERLANDS - The Dutch parliament will in the next three months investigate who in fact owns pension schemes' assets accumulated to meet pension liabilities.
The move follows a motion put forward by Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt in mid-December, after the current minister of social affairs Piet Hein Donner agreed to look into the controversial Optas case.
In March, Aegon said it had reached agreement to acquire its fellow-life insurer and group pension specialist Optas in a €1.3bn transaction; soon after Dutch media reported assets from the harbour workers' pension fund, managed by Optas, would be used for an art subsidy rather than for pensions.
In his motion of December 11, Omtzigt asked the cabinet to clarify before March 1 this year who legally owns the pension assets when these are managed by pension funds and insurers.
The cabinet will also investigate under which conditions, or if at all, changes can be made to premiums' destination and whether or not these can be applied to other goals then paying for pensions.
Lastly, Omtzigt has asked Donner to clarify who owns the yield in cases where foundations, established for the administration of tasks under the pension law, are sold, and how it can be guaranteed the pension assets and buffer funds will remain in tact in the case of a takeover.
Omtzigt told IPE in an interview in December all of these questions have yet to be legally defined and has urged the cabinet to come up with answers.
Peter Borgorff, former chairman of the Dutch umbrella organisation of industry-wide pension funds who has moved to Dutch pension fund PGGM, at that time labelled plans to use the surplus from the former Rotterdam harbour pension fund to subsidise art as "morally contemptible". (See earlier IPE story: Optas art deal 'morally contemptible - Borgdorff)
He argued employers' and employees' contributions have been principally paid to build capital for the provision of pensions.
We'd like to know what the pensions industry thinks on this subject so if you have any comments you would like to add to this debate, contact Carolyn Bandel on +44 (0)20 7261 4622 or email email@example.com.