Chamber pension in gov’t sights

Pension plan needs new board

The Chamber Pension Plan was placed under the direction of the National Pensions Office in February after its board of trustees failed to maintain a quorum of properly appointed members.

According to Acting Pensions Superintendent Mario Ebanks, the order issued by his office earlier this year did not stop the pension investment plan from conducting day-to-day operations, but it did restrict certain decision-making powers of the remaining board members with regard to the plan.

The pension plan is sponsored by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, but is a separate legal entity.

The order stated that at the time it was issued, there were only two legally standing trustees who had been appointed as interim board members, not enough to maintain a quorum for meetings under the Chamber plan’s trust deed, Mr. Ebanks said.

The issues with the plan surrounded “resignation of board trustees or improper appointment of trustees,” the pension director said Wednesday.

According to Mr. Ebanks, the Chamber’s retirement investment plan is unusual when it comes to appointing board members who represent the plan investors. Those investment plan members must be appointed by a vote of the plan membership, rather than simply being reappointed by other board members as occurs with other investment plans, he said.

With the appointment of trustees over the past few years, Mr. Ebanks said, it appears that process was not followed.

“They seemingly thought the process was too cumbersome,” he said Wednesday. “[The Chamber] plan is a very member-centric plan, it’s very democratic.”

The problems with finding a quorum for Chamber plan meetings started last year, Mr. Ebanks said, but the order from his office was issued only a few months ago. He said Wednesday he hopes the problem will be cleared up by the planned election of new Chamber pension plan board trustees at the organization’s annual general meeting Thursday evening.

Mr. Ebanks stressed both in the February order and in an interview Wednesday that the problems with the Chamber plan were “an administrative or governance issue,” not a financial one.

More than 16,000 individual members invest in the Chamber plan, which is the largest private sector multi-member retirement fund in the islands.

The National Pensions Office has conducted some financial reviews of private sector pension plans over the past 18 months and is planning full audits of the six multi-member pension investment plans and eight single-member plans that operate in the Cayman Islands.

“The pensions office has always focused on employer compliance in the past, but the administrators’ compliance is important as well,” Mr. Ebanks said.

Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce were contacted for a response to this story and indicated they were meeting about the subject late Wednesday and would have a response later in the week. Chamber pension plan general manager Bill Fleury was no longer in that position, the Cayman Compass was informed.

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