Lawyers for Danish pensions manager PKA have rejected in court claims that it broke competition law by planning a joint bid for a retail chain’s staff pensions business alongside rival Danica Pension.

The long-running case finally got underway on Monday in court in a suburb of Copenhagen.

A spokeswoman for PKA told IPE: “PKA and PKA+ were in Lyngby yesterday concerning a case from 2017, where the accused persons pleaded not guilty.”

Denmark’s National Unit for Special Crime (NSK) announced a year ago that it was bringing the case against the two pension firms - as well as two individuals - for “illegally agreeing to divide the market with the competitor Danica Pension”.

The police division said the PKA companies and Danica Pension had agreed to submit a joint bid when Dansk Supermarked (now Salling Group) was receiving offers in 2018 for a company pension agreement with around DKK440m (€59m) in annual contributions.

NSK said it considered that Danica Pension and PKA and PKA+ could have bid separately and that by submitting a joint bid they limited the competition.

“Market sharing is a serious infringement of the competition law,” Lise Kjærup-Heide, special prosecutor at NSK said at the time.

“It limits competition when two companies agree to join forces and share an offer between them instead of bidding individually when the collaboration does not give significant efficiency benefits,” she said.

While the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority (Konkurrence- og Forbrugerstyrelsen) decided Danica Pension met the conditions for a preliminary commitment to drop charges, the agency decided PKA did not meet conditions to obtain leniency, the NSK said, adding that it had also assessed whether the latter applied to PKA+.

The police division said the case against Danica Pension was being dealt with separately.

In a statement last summer, PKA’s chief executive officer Jon Johnsen said he was looking forward to having the case heard in court after several years of waiting.

“It has taken the authorities more than four years to reach an indictment, and we do not believe that we have done anything wrong,” he said at that time.

“We have never had a desire to limit competition in the pension market. On the contrary, we wanted to give employees a competitive alternative to the pension scheme they already had,” Johnsen said.

“That’s why we are only happy that we are now finally getting the court’s word on whether the offer was within the limits of the law,” the CEO said.

PKA’s spokeswoman told IPE that the firm had no further comments until the ruling.

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