How Safe Is Your Pension?

The Mirror (London, England), April 1, 1997 | Go to article overview

How Safe Is Your Pension?


Tycoon Robert Maxwell plundered his employees' pension schemes to shore up his crumbling business empire.

The investigation which followed found that dozens of other firms had also tried to stave off bankruptcy by dipping into their pension schemes.

To protect the millions of people in company pensions schemes, the Government has introduced tough new laws and set up a new watchdog, the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (OPRA) to enforce them.

We asked OPRA's first chairman, John Hayes, to explain what it will do to safeguard workers' pensions.

Q Why do we need a new pensions regulator?

A Although pension schemes have been around for a long time, members had very little protection.

Schemes weren't required to have enough money to pay pensions, there was no way of ensuring contributions were paid in and there were few restrictions on employers using funds to prop up their business.

Employees had no right to appoint trustees, they weren't entitled to much information, there were no penalties for breaking what regulations there were, and there was nobody you could complain to about all this.

Q How will you protect pension fund members?

A We will ban people from being trustees if they are dishonest, behave badly, or are not up to the job.

If contributions are not paid in, or assets are moved out of the fund, we can take employers to court, where they can be fined or imprisoned. The courts can freeze assets or order them to be returned.

QHow will schemes be monitored?

A The scheme's professional advisers, such as the auditors and actuaries, have a duty to tell us if rules are broken.

QHow can members monitor their pension?

ASpeak up in favour of having member trustees if your scheme hasn't any already. Make sure you get regular information on how your scheme it is doing.

Q When should I make a complaint?

AIf you hear anything that worries you - rumours, for example, that the pension fund is being used to pay off the firm's debts, contact the trustees or your trade union. …

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