189. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on whether legislation is adequate to ensure that trustees of pension schemes act in the best interests of all beneficiaries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19237/18 asked on 02 May 2018)
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): All dealings and decisions made by corporate or individual trustees of an occupational pension scheme are governed by legislation and enforced through the supervision of the Pensions Authority. The Pensions Act 1990, together with the trust deed and scheme rules sets out the trustees’ duties and responsibilities. Under this Act, trustees of pension schemes have the main responsibility for the administration of schemes and compliance with the requirements that apply to these schemes. Trustees of pension schemes must act in the best financial interests of the scheme members and must serve all beneficiaries of the scheme impartially. If there is a conflict of interest then a person’s duty as a trustee must take precedence over other interests.
The Pensions Authority is the regulatory body charged with the supervision of pension schemes and has the necessary powers under statute to investigate the conduct of a pension scheme should it become aware that the trustees of a scheme are not in compliance with the provisions of the Pensions Act.
The Pensions Authority’s Trustee Handbook provides guidance for trustees on how to achieve compliance with the Pensions Act and other relevant legislation and lists numerous trustee responsibilities including chapters on payment of contributions; investing a scheme’s assets; payment of benefits; payment of fees; preservation and transfer of benefits; the minimum funding standard; disclosure of information, and equal pension treatment.
The rules governing the role of trustees are constantly being reviewed. The Pensions Authority carried out a public consultation in 2015 on proposals to impose higher standards for trustees. In 2016, the Pensions Authority conducted a consultation process on the reform and simplification of pension; the purpose of which is to impose higher standards on all occupational schemes.
Additionally, the transposition of the new EU Directive IORP II by January 2019 will further advance the duties and supervision of trustees.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.