European pension funds are worried that levying the industry to fund the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) would lead to less oversight of the authority from EU institutions and member states, according to PensionsEurope.

Commenting on the European Commission’s review of EIOPA and the other European supervisory authorities (ESAs), the association said pension funds feared this might happen if EIOPA’s budget were funded to a lesser degree by national and EU contributions.

The Commission has proposed that EIOPA be given the power to raise a levy on pension schemes. PensionsEurope said funds were not directly supervised by the ESAs and therefore opposed industry fees.

It said pension funds were also concerned that proposed new powers for EIOPA would be used by the authority “to urge national supervisors to adopt its view of how pension funds should be regulated”.

“The proposals would entail new powers for EIOPA to set the policy priorities of national supervisory authorities, to review their supervisory activities and to obtain information directly from pension funds,” said PensionsEurope.

National pension supervisors should have the freedom to decide their own priorities based on relevant national trends and not adhere to EIOPA’s strategic supervisory plan, according to PensionsEurope.

Westhafentower EIOPA

The European Commission has proposed giving more powers to EIOPA

One of the main thrusts of the Commission’s proposals for the ESA system is to empower the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), which would be entrusted with direct supervisory power in certain financial sectors. The Commission has spoken of establishing “a single capital markets supervisor”.

PensionsEurope said it supported the objective of further convergence of capital markets supervision, and that ESMA should play a role in “ensuring that the harmonised rulebook is applied consistently across the EU”.

It made sense to boost ESMA’s powers vis-à-vis third country firms, “so that European institutional investors can be confident that they too behave prudently,” added the association.

However, increased powers for ESMA should be accompanied by “adequate representation” of pension funds and their dedicated asset managers in its stakeholder groups, it said, and ESMA would need to strengthen its engagement with stakeholders.

The proposed strengthening of mandates for ESA stakeholder groups was welcome, said PensionsEurope, although this should not be a reason to change the composition of the groups. The process for selecting members of the stakeholder groups should be transferred to the Commission, it said.

PensionsEurope expressed concern about underrepresentation of pensions expertise at EIOPA, in particular given that its pensions mandate would expand under the Commission’s proposal for pan-European personal pension products. The regulation on EIOPA should therefore require the Commission “to consider the expertise and competences of the executive board when shortlisting candidates”, said PensionsEurope.

The European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) should avoid having a bank-bias in its approach to other financial sectors, with pension funds fearing being unduly categorised as of systemic importance to financial stability, the organisation added.

The Commission has proposed that the president of the European Central Bank chair the ESRB on a permanent basis.

The proposals are now with the European Parliament and the Council.