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14.4.2014

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Entries in International (704)

10:17AM

NYT: Putin Puts Pensions at Risk

Mr. Putin’s proposal to dip into the country’s pension reserves for loans of up to $43.5 billion for three big infrastructure projects provoked an immediate debate among some of Russia’s top financial minds. It also brought warnings from financial experts who said that it might produce a burst of inflation, and that what the Russian economy needed most was deep structural change, to diversify from oil and gas and to build investor confidence.

  New York Times

8:54AM

UK pensions body attacks Europe watchdogs

EUThe European insurance and pensions regulator has been accused of undertaking a “land grab” by the UK pension trade body after it called for additional powers and suggested the industry should be hit by a levy to fund its operations.

In a speech in Brussels, the head of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority said it needed a wider mandate “for the benefit of consumer protection and financial stability”.

Gabriel Bernardino also said Eiopa, one of three European supervisory bodies for the financial services sector, wanted to “explore partial financing by levying fees on the industry in line with the evolution of [our] mandate and powers”.

The body is funded by the European Commission, which pays 40 per cent of its €18m annual budget, and the bloc’s member states, which cover the rest.

  FT

4:10PM

IPE: EC ready to drop key IORP II proposal

A number of EU member states would be willing to reach an agreement with the European Commission on a proposed pension portability directive if Brussels agreed to drop pillar one of the revised IORP Directive, IPE understands.

Two sources close to the Commission told IPE negotiations were ongoing among a number of member states, including the Netherlands, to reach agreement on both the pension portability directive and the revised IORP Directive.

"Some countries are currently negotiating the implementation of the pension portability directive, for which the voting is imminent," they said.

  IPE

4:07PM

Portugal plunders pension fund

The Portuguese government plans to tap nearly all of its state-owned pension fund to ease it over the hump of a hefty EUR27.5bn of financing needs over the next two years.

  Reuters

1:01PM

Li: Haftungsfragen bei Pensionskasse prüfen

Im Zusammenhang mit dem 313-Millionen-Loch bei der staatlichen Pensionskasse Liechtensteins stellen sich auch haftungsrechtliche Fragen. Die Regierung erwägt, hierzu ein Rechtsgutachten erstellen zu lassen, worin auch die Prozessaussichten aufgezeigt werden sollen. Der bereits erstellte Swisscanto-Bericht eignet sich nicht dafür.

  Vaterland

6:39AM

Sorry About Your Pension: Scotch? Cheese? Or Golf?

Faced with the gaps between the assets and the liabilities of its pension fund, the New York Times reports that Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker whisky, has transferred $645 million worth of maturing whisky to its pension fund. Meanwhile, the State of Alabama is stocking its pension system with something even more leisurely: eleven golf courses.

And on Friday, the New York Times reported that Dairy Crest, one of Britain’s biggest producers of dairy products, has made a major new breakthrough: it is adding $92 million worth of Cheddar cheese to its pension fund. Stocking pension funds with whisky, cheese and golf courses? What could possibly go wrong here?

Diageo and Dairy Crest and Alabama are not alone. According to a report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued last week, these moves are part of an alarming trend: pension funds are increasingly “gambling on resurrection.”

What’s that? Gambling on resurrection is what happens when a fund or a business or even a government starts running into financial trouble. The responsible thing for financial managers in such situations would be to face up to the problem with investors or constituents and discuss what to do, accepting the possibility that they may be held accountable for creating the problem.

The trickier thing to do is the opposite. You gamble on resurrection. You play down the problem and bet big with a high-risk/high-return strategy; if your bets pay off, you’re solvent, and if not, well, what the hell? You’re already insolvent. And it’s not your money that you’re playing with. With any luck, you’ll be out of there long before the problems are obvious.

  Forbes / NYT

8:37AM

Pressure mounts on EU to ditch £450bn Solvency II pension plans

EUPressure is mounting on the European Commission to abandon “reckless” Solvency II-style proposals for pensions which could cost UK defined benefit schemes £450bn. The Commission is considering raising the level of capital DB scheme sponsors are required to hold in reserve in an attempt to protect members’ savings.

click hereThe European Insurance and Occupational Pension Authority, an EU regulator, published preliminary findings outlining the impact the proposals could have. Eiopa estimates the changes will load an extra £450bn in additional funding costs onto UK DB schemes.

Pensions minister Steve Webb says: “The EU’s latest figures show the extremely high cost its plans would place on UK defined benefit pension schemes. “In fact, its estimate of a baseline £450bn cost is in line with the worst case scenario contained in figures The Pensions Regulator produced for the UK Government last year.

  MoneyMarketing / EIOPA Studies

9:27AM

WSJ: Poland’s Private Pension Funds ‘Giant Mistake’

The Polish government will work to correct “a giant mistake” that is the country’s private pension system, introduced in 1999 and responsible for the bulk of Poland’s public debt, its finance minister said.

The government in recent years has wrestled with privately managed pension fund companies, which receive a percentage of gross salaries and invest it in the capital market. The system has so far failed to deliver on its promise of high pensions, while a diversion of a portion of payroll taxes to the private system in 1999 led to a massive shortfall at the state-funded social security administration.

This gap has been made up for with money the government has borrowed in the market. The setup is partly responsible for the build-up of public debt, now around 56% of economic output.

  Wall Street Journal

5:08PM

FT: UK pension funds reject ‘cult of equity’

ukThe “cult of equity” is poised to become history for UK defined-benefit schemes, as the country’s pension fund managers move to favour corporate bonds and alternative investments, a new survey reveals.

More than a third of the UK pension schemes (41 per cent) that participated in Aon Hewitt’s Global Pension Risk Survey for 2013 expect to reduce their exposure to UK equities in the next 12 months, while more than a quarter (28 per cent) hope to pare back their allocations to global equities.

At the same time as equities are falling from grace, alternatives are gaining a following. One-third of participating UK pension funds hope to increase their exposure to alternatives. A similar percentage are accessing derivatives and raising their allocations to active strategies as well.

  Financial Times / AON

3:16PM

EU: PKs fordern Ausnahme von Transaktionssteuer

EUDer Fachverband der Pensionskassen Österreichs mit seinem Obmann Andreas Zakostelsky an der Spitze fordert von der EU, dass Pensionskassen und die Betrieblichen Vorsorgekassen grundsätzlich von der Finanztransaktionssteuer (FTT) ausgenommen werden.

Die Argumentation der Pensionskassen gründet sich im Wesentlichen auf folgendem Argument: Nach Artikel 2 Absatz 8 lit. f) des aktuellen Richtlinienentwurfes zur Finanztransaktionssteuer (2013/0045) sind Pensionskassen von der Finanztransaktionssteuer betroffen. Staatliche Pensionssysteme (im Umlageverfahren) sind jedoch vom Anwendungsbereich des Richtlinienentwurfes zur Finanztransaktionssteuer nicht umfasst.

  Institutional Money / Finanztransaktionssteuer /   Entwurf Richtlinie

8:48AM

Pension funds at 'significant' risk from holistic balance sheet complexity

EUHigh levels of complexity around the holistic balance sheet (HBS) approach in the revised IORP Directive, and member states' varying assumptions in testing the new supervisory tool, could lead to "significant" risks, the Dutch Pensions Federation has warned.

Releasing its position paper on the first quantitative impact study (QIS) for the revised IORP Directive, the association argued that the differing approaches taken by individual member states to calculate the components of the HBS could lead to different valuation outcomes and prudential conclusions.

According to the association, the first QIS exercise conducted by the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) highlighted that a number of components within the HBS – such as the "strong" dependence on credit ratings and the fact some pension funds use deterministic calculations, as opposed to stochastic valuations – could increase risk for occupational pensions. 

  IPE

5:06PM

NYT: The Five Stages of Retirement Planning Angst

imageThe realization that we’re not saving enough for retirement can lead, in short order, to denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

  NYT

5:03PM

UK: Pension funds join forces over exec pay

ukThe UK's biggest pension-fund investors have called for company executives paid in shares to be obliged to hold onto them for at least 10 years; the most eye-catching of a new set of principles on boardroom pay. The initiative, which has been put together by the National Association of Pension Funds, investor coalition Hermes Eos, and the pension funds for BT, the railways industry and universities, is aimed at encouraging company management to take a more long-term view.

Deborah Gilshaw, corporate-governance counsel at RPMI Railpen, which is the management organisation of the Railways Pension Scheme, said the pension funds hoped to rally others to their cause. She said: "This is a pension fund initiative, but it is absolutely our intention to bring together share-owner representatives, not just in the UK but elsewhere too."

  Financial News / NAPF

4:08PM

Brussels releases early draft of Green Paper on long-term investing

euThe EU may seek preferential treatment for certain types of long-term asset classes in Solvency II and the proposed new solvency rules for occupational pension funds, according to an early draft of the European Commission's Green Paper on long-term investing that IPE has seen.

The paper is set to call for a balance between the need for long-term investment capital on the one hand versus future capital requirements in Solvency II and proposed new rules for IORPS.

  IPE

12:43PM

UK: DB schemes are buckling under the pressure

Image for DB schemes are buckling under the pressureThe latest NAPF survey revealed that just 13% of defined benefit schemes were open to new joiners in 2012 from 19% in 2011, representing a drop of a third, and is also the steepest fall since comparable data began in 2005, when 43% were open. Additionally, according to the survey, which covered a total of 1,018 pensions with 9m members and £628bn, these defined benefit schemes are increasingly closing to the workers who are already in them.
The number that shut their doors to existing staff rose over a third from 23% in 2011 to 31% in 2012.

NAPF chief executive Joanne Segars said: "The pressures on final salary pensions have proven too great for many businesses. The growing liabilities fuelled by quantitative easing will have been a factor behind the record hike in closures. "Those starting a new job in the private sector have next to no chance of getting a final salary pension. What was once the norm is now a very rare offer."

The NAPF argued that pensions have been under pressure due to rising longevity, red tape and poor investment returns, but higher liabilities from quantitative easing and low gilt yields have prompted these latest closures.
The survey also showed that total contributions from employers and employees into the newer defined contribution pensions rose to an all-time high of 12.5% of salary in 2012, which was well above the 8% minimum that auto-enrolment requires.

  PF online / Napf Report

9:42AM

US: Finanzamt bedient sich bei der PK

usThe U.S. Treasury, in order to avoid default, has resorted to an eyebrow-raising move: it has borrowed from the federal employee pension fund as the country nears its debt ceiling. The U.S. government stopped investing in the federal employee pension fund "to avoid breaching the statutory debt limit," according to a letter Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent to Congress.

Geithner said that the move will free up some $156 billion in borrowing authority, while policy leaders in Washington wrangle over raising the $16.4 trillion debt limit. Geithner promised the fund would be "made whole once the debt limit is increased," and maintains that federal employees and retirees would not be affected by the action. But an IOU from the federal government isn't very settling for those relying on the fund for retirement.

This is not the first time the government has dipped into pension funds to pay for its overspending. The Treasury has suspended reinvestments in the federal pension fund, aka the G Fund, six times over the past two decades in order to keep the country under the legal debt limit. The most prolonged delay in raising the limit came in 1995 after congressional Republicans came into power during the Clinton administration.

The last time was Jan. 17, 2012, while a vote was pending to increase the debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion. The increase was approved, lifting the debt ceiling to its current $16.4 trillion limit, and a debt ceiling debacle like the one in August 2011 was averted.

  Money Morning

9:34AM

Felix Austria: PK-Rendite 8,4%

austriaDie 17 österreichischen Pensionskassen erzielten durchschnittlich im Jahr 2012 eine Performance von 8,39 Prozent. Der Aktienanteil am Portfeuille beträgt zwischen 23 und 29%. Derzeit haben rund 815’500 Österreicher (plus 3 Prozent im Vergleich zu 2011) Anspruch auf eine Firmenpension. Insgesamt verwalten die 17 österreichischen Pensionskassen ein Vermögen von rund 16,25 Milliarden Euro (plus 9 Prozent im Vergleich zu 2011).

  Inst. Money

9:02AM

Dutch pension funds increase euro-zone exposure

The combined investments of Dutch pension funds in the euro-zone have increased by €12bn to €232bn during the third quarter of 2012, according to figures from supervisor De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB). The DNB said the largest increase in schemes' euro-zone exposure was seen in France and, to a lesser extent, Germany. Investments in the former increased by €6.5bn to €76bn, while holdings in the latter increased by almost €2bn to €91bn. The Dutch regulator said pension funds for the most part increased bond portfolios, but they also divested some holdings to take profits.

  IPE

8:35AM

US-Pensionskassen klagen gegen Facebook

Eine Investorengruppe, der unter anderem US-Pensionsfonds angehören, wird zum Hauptkläger gegen Facebook wegen des verlustreichen Börsengangs im Mai 2012. Wie die Nachrichtenagentur Reuters meldet, fasst der Bezirksrichter Robert Sweet damit 31 von insgesamt 42 Einzelklagen zu einer Sammelklage zusammen. Die Kläger werfen Facebook irreführende Angaben zur eigenen Finanzsituation im Rahmen des Börsengangs vor. Allein die jetzigen Hauptkläger machen geltend, dadurch zusammen 7,1 Millionen US-Dollar eingebüßt zu haben.

  Heise

9:35AM

African Pension Funds: The missing Link to African Development?

Today there is much debate on the role of pension funds in economic development. Some believe pensions funds are a beneficial tool for creating a sustainable economic model, but others believe these funds undermine national wealth and social harmony. At the opposite of OECD nations, African countries show very little activity in the pension funds industry. We believe that under ethical conditions pension funds can indeed be used in a viable African economic model for community development and industrial well-being.

  Huffington Post

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