This question is properly for the Minister for Social Protection and the response I am giving is from her Department. The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for the Minister for Social Protection to comment on issues arising in regard to a particular pension scheme.
In general, pension schemes in Ireland are established under trust. The trust deed and scheme rules provide for the appointment and responsibilities of the trustees of a scheme. Under trust law, the trustees of a scheme are required at all times to act in the best interest of all scheme members; to act fairly between beneficiaries and to administer the trust in accordance with trust law. A trustee who is negligent, does not act in good faith or breaks the rules of the trust can be sued by the beneficiaries. They can be held personally liable for the entire amount of any loss that has occurred.
The provisions in the Pensions Act build on trust law and sets out in Part VI of the Pensions Act the range of duties and responsibilities of a trustee of a pension scheme, including the general duties of trustees, the qualifications required to be a trustee of a scheme and also makes provision for the training of trustees. The Pensions Act requires the large-funded occupational pension schemes with more than 50 employees and pensioner members to allow members to select or approve the selection by the employer of one or more "member trustees". Conflicts of interests can arise where trustees appointed directly by the employer may include members of the board of the company or senior executives or where a member trustee has discretion under the trust deed and scheme rules in relation to the payment of scheme benefits. A person appointed as a trustee could be in a position where there may be a conflict between their duty as a trustee and their other interests. Their duty as a trustee must prevail when taking decisions. Where a trustee is conscious of a possible conflict of interest it may be necessary, before a decision is taken, to obtain legal, actuarial or other professional advice, as appropriate. Any further questions can be directed to the Minister for Social Protection who has responsibility for occupational and State pensions.