NETHERLANDS - Joanne Kellermann, director at the Dutch pension supervisor and central bank (DNB), has distanced herself from a controversial report by consultant Frits Bosch that was commissioned by Dutch news show Zembla.
Based on Bosch's analysis, the show, which aired in February, contended that pension savings worth hundreds of billions of euro had "vanished".
Kellermann conceded pension contributions had fallen short in the past, but she said it was "absolutely not true that funds have vanished".
According to Bosch, the show's producers informed him that the supervisor had read his report before the show aired and endorsed its main points.
Kellermann firmly denied this.
"I am sure Mr Bosch would have liked it very much if we'd have endorsed this, but we did not," she said. "We never endorse these types of reports."
In response to the show, the Dutch parliament yesterday convened a hearing on pension fund investment policies.
In addition to Frits Bosch and Kellermann, MPs questioned a number of pension experts including Jean Frijns, Guus Boender and Martijn Vos of Ortec, David Blitz and Laurens Swinkels of Robeco, Else Bos of PGGM and Rein van Dam, former director of supervision at DNB's predecessor PVK.
Over the course of the seven-hour hearing, the most serious of the contentions levelled by Bosch and Zembla were refuted, but the accusations were widely held to contain at least a kernel of truth.
According to Bosch, Dutch pension funds were short by some €800bn due to insufficient contributions and premium restitutions in the past.
In fact, the shortfall and accrued interest amount to €30bn for public servant fund ABP. According to Boender and Vos of Ortec, for the pension industry in its entirety, the number would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of €80bn.
That, of course, is still a substantial shortfall. Frijns, former CIO at ABP, said there was no doubt that premium contributions were below par, even by past standards.
He said that ABP's board of directors, of which he was a member, had strongly resisted the government's efforts to lower contributions and/or push through premium restitutions.
Even so, he felt compelled to apologise.
"You look at me accusingly, and I accept that," he said. "I feel bad we didn't protest more vigorously."
He said this would never have happened but for the lack of clear rights of ownership of pension fund surpluses, adding: "A system of common property is ruled by the biggest mouth."
When asked by Liberal Democrat MP Ineke Dezentjé who was this "loud-mouthed bully", Frijns said the employers - both in the public and private sector.
"They figured they could make money off of pension funds," he said.