A poll of UK company secretaries has shown support for strengthening The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) powers to block takeovers to protect pensions.
In the poll, carried out by ICSA: The Governance Institute and recruitment specialist The Core Partnership, 64% of company secretaries surveyed said they were in favour of this, with only 15% opposed to the idea, and 21% undecided.
Simon Osborne, chief executive at the ICSA: The Governance Institute, said: “With FTSE 100 pension deficits soaring in the last year and the BHS pension debacle still fresh in people’s minds, it is little wonder we are seeing calls for more powers to be handed to The Pensions Regulator.”
However, he said the organisation itself would advise some caution, arguing that it would stifle corporate transactions if pension members had the ability to block all deals.
This, in turn, would drive investment out of the UK at a time when it was much needed, he said.
“It might be more sensible to ensure there are robust safeguarding provisions in place in any takeover agreement so the TPR can ensure pensions’ interests are adequately protected,” Osborne said.
The poll also puts more responsibility on directors to look after a company’s pension fund.
Some 55% of respondents said directors’ duties should be expanded to include a specific duty of care for a company’s pension fund, while 14% were uncertain about this, and 31% opposed.
The acronym ICSA stems stems from the Institute of Company Secretaries and Administrators, out of which the current form of the organisation has grown.
In other news, the Transparency Taskforce – an organisation campaigning for greater transparency in financial services around the world – is proposing to call on the Work & Pensions Select Committee to open an inquiry into pension charges.
Andy Agathangelou, founding chair of the organisation, said: “I can’t think of anything better for the cause of wanting greater transparency in the UK’s pensions and investment system, particularly in relation to costs and charges, than if the Work & Pensions Committee were to open an inquiry into the matter.”
He said he thought the public interest in such an inquiry would be enough to warrant the time, effort and expense involved, and it would represent a very good use of government resources.
“I say this because a 20 year old, saving £100 per month into a pension until age 65, will lose 24.6% of the value of the fund in charges if the total charges amount to 1% per annum, and the gross market return is 5% per annum,” he said.
At 2% a year, total charges for the pension saver would amount to 42.55% of the value of such a fund, he said.
Agathangelou said he would write an open letter to the chair of the Work & Pensions Committee, asking his committee to think about opening an inquiry.