The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (“EIOPA”) has issued a statement on principles to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus/COVID-19 on the occupational pensions sector. The statement recognises the stabilising role that institutions for occupational retirement provision (“IORPs”) can play as long-term investors in the current economic climate.
Business continuity and operational risks
The EIOPA stated that National Competent Authorities (“NCAs”) should ensure that IORPs prioritise the continuity of key operational activities, including outsourced functions and allow IORPs flexibility in the collection of contributions from employers facing liquidity pressures, also in anticipation of envisaged wage support measures. NCAs should expect IORPs to carefully consider and effectively manage the increased risk exposure to fraud and breaches of cyber security and data protection due to the disruption of society and, in particular, the prevalence of staff working remotely. To accommodate IORPs’ focus on key operational activities, NCAs should be flexible with respect to deadlines for publication of documents and data considered less urgent given the current circumstances as well as in respect of national reporting requirements.
The EIOPA has also recommended that NCAs should monitor the liquidity position of IORPs carefully and proportionately due to increased liquidity pressures. NCAs should also closely monitor the impact of financial market developments on the financial position of IORPs providing defined benefit schemes and their compliance with national funding requirements.
Protection of members and beneficiaries
NCAs, where relevant in collaboration with the national legislator, should encourage flexibility to safeguard members’ pension rights and, allow plan members to choose delayed application of lump sum payments or of mandatory annuitisation.
NCAs should expect IORPs to communicate to sponsors, members and beneficiaries in a balanced way on the impact of the coronavirus developments and on the IORP’s service continuity and should aim to discourage potential short-term decisions by plan members that may jeopardise long-term pension outcomes.
In line with the EIOPA’s position and considering the significant effects of the COVID-19 situation on the financial services sector, the MFSA has deemed it necessary and proportionate to apply flexibility in the applicable deadlines for the submission of regulatory reporting. The MFSA’s position is aimed at striking the right balance between providing the necessary relief to licensed entities while at the same time maintaining its objective of ensuring the protection of markets and consumers/investors. To date the MFSA has granted a two-month extension to entities submitting their audited annual financial statements, management letter and auditor’s report that were due by end of March or end of April 2020.
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