ZEIST, Netherlands - Paul Myners' report on institutional investment in the United Kingdom is attracting something of a following elsewhere in Europe.
Leading figures in the Dutch pensions industry met with Mr. Myners earlier this year to discuss the proposals in his report with a view to implementing them locally.
And aspects of the report also are being used by the European Federation of Retirement Provision, Brussels, and other lobby groups to counter recent proposals to include quantitative investment limits in the long-awaited European Union directive on cross-border corporate pension plans.
The invitation-only meeting between Dutch pension experts and Mr. Myners was held in February and organized by the e49 billion ($44 billion) Stichting Pensioenfonds PGGM, Zeist, the Netherlands' second largest pension plan.
Those attending included Jean Frijns, head of investments for the e147 billion Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP, Heerlen; Rene Maatman, chief counsel for ABP; Roderick Munsters, head of investment policy at PGGM; Peter De Koning, chairman of the Dutch Corporate Governance Association for Pension Plans, Heerlen, and chief executive officer of the e9.8 billion Railway Pension Fund, Utrecht; and Frans Prins, outgoing chairman of the Dutch Association of Industrywide Pension Plans, Rijswijk.
Alan Rubenstein, outgoing chairman of the U.K.'s National Association of Pension Funds' investment council and head of Morgan Stanley's European Pensions Group, also attended with Mr. Myners.
ABP's Mr. Frijns said in an interview the picture of the U.K. pensions market painted by Mr. Myners reflected, to a certain extent, the Dutch market.
Mr. Frijns is particularly interested in following up Mr. Myners' proposals to tackle the "herd mentality" among pension funds; to improve limited disclosure on transaction and commission costs; and increase pension plans' activities in the areas of corporate governance.
Mr. Frijns also is concerned that money managers do not give clients enough detail on transaction and commission costs, which could reflect conflicts of interest between money managers and their clients. Dutch pension plans need to explore this issue, he said, because the proposals made in the Myners report that money managers charge an all-inclusive fee were not "the only or best way" of tackling this problem.
He will be closely watching how the NAPF and the Investment Managers Association tackle this issue in the United Kingdom, he said.
Mr. Frijns believes almost all aspects of Mr. Myners' proposals concerning corporate governance could be adopted by Dutch pension plans. "It's in everybody's interests if pension funds try to use their voting rights," he said. Disclosure of corporate governance activities by U.K. pension plans already is far higher than in the Netherlands.
Sylvia Van Waveren, corporate governance manager at PGGM, also attended the February meeting.
She said the Dutch government and Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm in January had expressed an interest in the Myners report and that led to some concern among local pension plans that the government might try to introduce legislation to entrench some of the Myners' proposals.
According to Ms. Van Waveren, Mr. Zalm is concerned Dutch pension plans were not sufficiently active in corporate governance.
"We are fully behind the Myners report, but it should not lead to regulations in the form of restrictions," she said.
Before going into its pre-election recess in April, the Dutch government had discussed ways to improve professionalism and disclosure among local pension plans, said Mr. Frijns.
He believes formal legislation is unlikely but said the onus will be on organizations such as the Association of Industrywide Pension Plans and the Corporate Governance Association, of which he is secretary, to look at ways to improve transparency and investment activity among Dutch pension plans.
But at this stage, pension plans have not taken concrete steps to apply Mr. Myners' proposals.
Mr. Frijns said he believed the first priority for the pension industry should be to ensure the final version of the European pension directive did not conflict with pension plans that already invested according to prudent-expert principles.
"I will use the Myners report to do that as it points to the right direction," he said.
Mr. Frijns said he supported the investment proposals of the Myners report over those published recently as draft amendments to the European directive on cross-border pension plans.
Mr. Myners "looks at the idea of the prudent-expert rule" as the benchmark for decision-making by pension plans, said Mr. Frijns.
The latest draft proposal for the directive, drawn up by the Spanish government, restricts investment in private equity and hedge funds and "is not trying to improve the professionalism of investments but gives quantitative guidelines. That seems to me counterproductive," said Mr. Frijns.