Coillte being sued over €23m deficit in its pension scheme
STATE forestry body Coillte is being sued over a €23m deficit in its pension scheme affecting some 2,000 pensioners.
Coillte has told the scheme trustees in letters 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 added.
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.
Coillte had previously indicated the transfer of the remaining €23m was contingent on the sale of immature forests which required State approval, the trustee said.
The trustees said no such contingency was set out in the funding proposal but they had believed the company would honour its commitments. They had written to Coillte a number of times about the matter and, at all times, it had been indicated Coillte intended to comply with its obligations but that had not happened.
On May 24 last, solicitors for the trustees had demanded the €23m be transferred and also told it they calculated the loss of investment opportunity, arising from the delay in paying the €23m, at some €5.57m.
No payment had been made to date, the trustees said.