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80pc of pensions in deficit

Approximately 80pc of defined benefit pension schemes were in deficit at the end of 2009, according to figures released by the Pensions Board.

Chief Executive of the Pensions Board Brendan Kennedy said that the board was "very concerned" with the effect on pensions of investment losses.

He warned that too many defined benefit schemes were based on "aggressive" assumptions about investment returns and did not take enough account of potential risks.

Over the year, the Board noted that there had been 169 suspected cases of deduction and non-remittance of pension contributions by employers in the construction sector and that it carried out nine on-site investigations. A total of 94 cases were closed, 17 employers entered into payment schedules with €4m restored contributions from cases closed.

The board also issued on-the-spot fines notices of €2,000 to 51 trustees of 18 pension schemes.

One fine was issued for non-payment of Pensions Board fees, while another was imposed for failure to furnish options on leaving service.

"What determines whether a pension scheme can meet its obligations is not regulation, not the funding standard, but the prudent management of that scheme by its trustees and the support of the sponsoring employer on an ongoing basis," Mr Kennedy said.