NETHERLANDS – SPVG, the €410m pension fund of Dutch glass manufacturer Vereenigde Glasfabrieken, is to file an €11m claim for compensation against De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) after the regulator was adjudged to have wrongly ordered the scheme to slash its gold allocation from 13% to 3%.
The pension fund's decision to pursue compensation follows the recent rejection of the DNB's appeal against the verdict of the Rotterdam court.
The court ruled that the watchdog's reasoning in the case had been "unacceptable".
Rob Daamen, chairman at SPVG, said: "Because the DNB's appeal options have been exhausted, we will request the court to carry on with our initial claim for compensation."
The pension fund claims to have lost €9.5m – based on the difference between the purchase price of gold in 2008-09 and the price at the moment of divestment – whilst incurring €1.5m in costs.
On the significance of the verdict, Erik Lutjes – a pensions lawyer at DLA Piper and a professor of pensions law at Amsterdam's Free University, said: "The corporate appeal court has accepted the argument that investment choices are the pension fund's responsibility, and that the DNB's task is to check these decisions from a distance.
"The DNB should have factored in the pension fund's individual situation rather than take a general percentage as its criterion."
A spokesman for the regulator said it was currently "examining" the verdict.
In 2011, the DNB ordered SPVG to reduce its gold allocation after concluding the holding posed a concentration risk.
It described the investment as "a speculative commodity with no intrinsic return".
It also argued that a fall in gold markets would have had "disastrous" consequences for the scheme's assets, and that the investment was therefore at odds with the Prudent Person Principle within the Pensions Act.
At the time, SPVG countered that the gold stake served as a protection against inflation, as well as growing uncertainty surrounding the euro.
"For us," Daamen told IPE, "gold is hardly a commodity, but a monetary metal as an insurance and an asset."
He claimed the pension fund's losses following the DNB's order to divest effectively cut its coverage ratio by more than 3 percentage points.