EUROPE - A former member-nominated trustee at IBM's £4.9bn (€7.2bn) UK pension fund says he feels the computer giant made his role more difficult through a lack of information.
"Essentially, MEDs [Member Elected Directors] need not only to learn about pension regulations and about the schemes, they also have to battle an organisation where the chairman's powers and the deprivation of information are used to hinder MED effectiveness," says Brian Marks.
Marks, a trustee from 2003-2006, writes in an account of his tenure that he anticipated "being stifled by a lack of information" when he took the role.
Marks cited examples of being underinformed at meetings and about employees. Marks claims the company denies MEDs access to the pensions part of its intranet.
"An obstruction that I did not anticipate arose when I wanted to analyse scheme data," Marks said. He maintains he was refused access to a copy of data sent by IBM to its actuary Watson Wyatt.
"IBM declines to comment on specifics of observations made by a former trustee," said UK media relations manager Rory Caren. "IBM operates in accordance with the Pension Regulator's code of practice."
Marks was also critical of having US executives "flying-in" for trustee board meetings. The disparity in salaries and cultural differences was a problem - meaning the visitors were "not equipped to be trustees of a UK scheme".
Last year Marks and others penned a guide for other IBM member trustees which said: "The biggest frustrations from being an MED stem from the gap between the objectives of the trust and the objectives of IBM."
In the 2005 members' report, Trust chairman Jim Lamb paid tribute to Marks' "lasting contributions to the work of the Trustee".
Marks' comments appear on the website of the Association of Members of IBM UK Pension Plans.