Barbara Ottawa (IPE) berichtet auf IPE vom Anlass des Vorsorgeforums zur Umsetzung der Minder-Initiative. Sie hält u.a. fest: The Swiss pensions industry is trying to convince the government that pension funds should be allowed to abstain from exercising their voting rights under new shareholder engagement rules. The referendum included an obligation for Pensionskassen to exercise their voting rights actively – a stipulation now set down in the constitution.

But questions remain over how these new rules will be implemented, and whether abstinence is a form of active shareholder engagement. At a recent debate on the new legal framework in Zurich, Simon Heim, legal expert at Towers Watson Switzerland, said: “Abstaining at an annual general meeting is effectively a no-vote, as an absolute majority is needed under Swiss shareholder law.”

All parties – including the Swiss pension fund federation Asip, worker and employer representatives, asset manager and pension funds – agreed that abstaining from voting or even not taking part in an AGM should be allowed under the new rules, set to be published as a draft in mid-June and come into effect from 2014.

Another question concerns whether pension funds or trustees can be punished for not voting, as the official legal text only states that Pensionskassen must “vote in their members’ interest”. Doris Bianchi from the association of Swiss unions demanded an exemption for smaller pension funds. Thomas Schönbächler, head of the public pension fund for the canton of Zurich (BVK), warned that an obligation to exercise voting rights on all of its Swiss holdings would increase costs to 12% of assets.

 IPE