Friday 22 September 2017

Ex-De Beers pension fund members are owed €50m, court hears

Tim Healy

MEMBERS of a wound-up pension scheme of an industrial diamond manufacturer claim they are owed about €50m, a court has heard.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday agreed to fast-track to the Commercial Court an action by 124 members of the scheme against the trustees of the contributory pension plan of Shannon-based Element Six Ltd (formerly De Beers Industrial Diamond Division (Ireland) Ltd).

The judge said the action raises general issues about the obligations of trustees of pension schemes.

Among various claims by 124 is that the Element Six parent company threatened and bullied the trustees concerning the company's obligations to address the deficit of up to €184m in the pension plan.

Mr Justice Kelly made the matter returnable to court next February.

Liabilities

Seeking the transfer to the Commercial Court, Una Tighe, for the members, said the pension plan was wound up in December 2011 with a minimum funding standard deficit of some €129m, increasing to €184m to take account of the sum required to fully provide for the plan's liabilities

By a 4-3 vote carried by the casting vote of the chairman, a company trustee, the trustees had accepted an offer by the company to pay €30m towards the deficit, the court heard. That sum included the company's €11m annual contribution for 2011 to the pension plan.

The members have raised a range of issues concerning the trustees' handling of the matter, including their alleged failure to exercise their power to require the company to make a contribution to fund the full deficit.

The trustees should also have referred the matter to the High Court for directions, it is claimed.

Ms Tighe said the value of her clients' claim is between €40m and €50m.

Irish Independent

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