UK - Pensioners of the Thorn Pension Fund have accused Nomura of wanting to hive off a scheme surplus before selling the company.
The group claims the Japanese bank - which bought Thorn in 1998 - persuaded fund trustees to switch 90% of the fund’s assets into corporate bonds to generate a surplus which it could then skim off.
Thorn & EMI Group Pensioners’ Association chairman Eric Champion said: “Nomura purchased Thorn and has never paid anything into the pension fund. Nomura has indicated that it won’t hold onto the company for very long.
“It is our suspicion that as soon as they get the money out of the pension fund they will sell it. It is extremely unfair.”
But a Nomura spokesman rejected the pensioners’ accusation and described it as “silly”.
He said: “This is factually incorrect. I don’t think the pensioners should be complaining that Nomura switched into bonds, making the fund richer and then make up strange stories about it. Presumably, these pensioners would prefer for the fund to stay in equities and the fund to be poorer.”
But Champion said that after initially agreeing to an equal split of the surplus, Nomura now wanted 65%.
Champion said: “First of all Nomura said it would pay the surplus 50-50. But the ratio has changed dramatically. Thorn members would like to see the whole £100m returned. But if not, they would expect more left in the fund and a fairer split. The split is very much biased towards the company, which is totally wrong.”
The Nomura spokesman explained: “If the fund can’t meet its liabilities, then the responsibility for making up the gap is purely with the employer. Because the fund is in surplus rather than in liability, the decision has been taken that the money should be split this way between the members of the pension fund and the company. The view of ourselves and most of the pensioners is that this is entirely equitable.”
The decision to switch into bonds was made at the end of 2000. The Nomura spokesman said it was done because there were only a small number of active members and a portfolio comprised mainly of bonds better matched liabilities. The remaining 10% comprises gilts and a small portion of equities.
Although OPRA has approved the Nomura move, a further hearing will take place in April.
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