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Netherlands to force funds to disclose voting

NETHERLANDS - Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm wants to force pension funds, insurers and banks to disclose the way they vote at company annual general meetings.

The move would aim to quell fears of financial analysts and politicians that institutional investors are keeping their voting behaviour secret.

Zalm reckons institutional investors need to use their voting rights more actively to add value for beneficiaries.

The move would increase pressure on smaller funds, which largely do not currently disclose how they vote. Larger funds such as PGGM, ABP and others are already open on the matter.

The ministry wants the new law to be in place in 2007.

Loek Sibbing, chairman of the OPF company pension fund association, said he's against the idea - and hopes there'll be an exemption built in for smaller funds.

He points out that some 80% of the OPF's smaller pension fund members have outsourced the management of their investment portfolios.

According to Sibbink, it would be too expensive and labour intensive for smaller pension funds to present their particular voting behaviour or to set up their own strategy.

But the ministry has stated that there has been no decision yet regarding a possible exemption clause for smaller funds.

Former ABP chairman Jean Frijns - who's the current chairman of the Monitoring Committee of the Tabaksblat Code on corporate governance - says Zalm's proposal is good.

Frijns stated it would "force increased transparency upon investors in the way they use their share portfolios".

Meanwhile, the Dutch Labour (PvdA) labour is looking at the pension fund sector supervisors, the central bank and market watchdog AFM.

In a motion presented in the Dutch parliament, Labour MP Frank Heemskerk, has proposed forcing the DNB and AFM to increase their own transparency.

At present, the supervisors are not forced by law to open up their own books to present a transparent picture about their management and supervision framework of the pension sector.

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