Wednesday 17 January 2018

State forestry body sued over €23m pension-scheme deficit

Tim Healy

STATE forestry body Coillte is being sued over a €23m deficit in its pension scheme which affects some 2,000 pensioners.

Coillte has told the scheme trustees, in a letter, that it was unable to make agreed payments into the scheme because those were contingent on state approval for the sale of immature forests which had not been forthcoming.

In agreeing yesterday to fast-track the case in the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said this was the second such case to come before the court in the last two weeks and it seemed a trend was developing.

Making directions aimed at a speedy hearing, the judge said he was told about 2,000 people were affected by the shortfall and he was sure they were experiencing sleepless nights worrying about their pensions.

He did not want them enduring any more anxiety than they had to, the judge said.

He made directions for speedy exchange of the necessary legal documents with a view to having a trial in January next.

In the action, the trustees of the Coillte Teoranta Superannuation Scheme are seeking judgment for some €23m against the company in an effort to make up the deficit.

They claim the company owes the money on foot of its obligations under a trust deed dated 2000 and a December 2009 funding proposal for the scheme.

That funding proposal, approved by the Pensions Board, was entered into arising from the scheme being in deficit in 2009.

The trustees claim the funding proposals required that some €34.5m cash and assets would be contributed up front.

They claim Coillte complied with some aspects of that proposal, including paying €3m cash in 2009 and €1.5m each year from 2009, but had to date only transferred €7m of the €30m cash assets it was to transfer to the scheme.

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