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Italy’s Maroni warns of pension reform delay

ITALY - Welfare minister Roberto Maroni has warned that pension reform could be halted in its tracks if parliament sticks to its decision to strip pension regulator Covip of some of its supervision powers.

The warning has come after a lower chamber vote on new laws for more transparency in the Italian investment system, in the wake of the Parmalat scandal.

The lower chamber has approved a motion brought by three MPs, which has stripped Covip of its exclusive role of supervision and control over the pension fund industry.

If the upper chamber upholds the vote, part of Covip’s responsibilities will be transferred to Consob, the public authority responsible for regulating the Italian securities market.

Covip and Consob are among the five agencies responsible for supervising and regulating different aspects of the financial market, together with Banca d’ Italia, the anti-trust authority and insurance regulator ISVAP.

The potential change of responsibility could affect the pension reform, approved last July after nearly two years of debate.

“If the norms abrogated are not brought back, it will be impossible to launch the pension reform,” Maroni said in a statement.

Maroni slammed the vote as a “serious mistake that must be soon put to right by the Senate”.

“Pension savings have a high social profile, which distinguishes them from any other kind of savings. And they require such control, supervision and regulation to protect their special nature and social purpose.”

Covip’s president, Luigi Scimia, said pension fund supervision has been “weakened” by the vote. “Covip expresses its regret over the decision taken yesterday by the chamber.”

Outlining Covip’s role supervisory role that ensures transparency and adequate information standards for pension fund members, Scimia said: “It is evident that our supervisory activities are focused on a very special kind of saving … which serves a unique institutional: a safe and tranquil old age for Italian workers.”

Consob declined to comment. An observer familiar with the situation, who declined to be named, told IPE that the dispute is potentially protracting parliamentary delays for months, paving the way for further strife.

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