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Danish minister wants to tighten scrutiny of pension giant ATP

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By Teis Jensen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Danish lawmakers should have increased powers to hold pension giant ATP to account after recent criticism of the fund that handles pensions savings for almost all Danes.

The chief executive of ATP stepped down in November after criticism of the tax policies at a bank unit he ran a decade ago. The fund then put new investments with Macquarie on hold last month pending an investigation of the Australian firm’s involvement in dividend stripping.

Denmark’s employment minister has called on the board of the pension fund, Europe’s fourth largest with around $120 billion of assets under management, to come and meet lawmakers of several parliamentary committees.

As a self-owned entity, ATP is not under direct political control, but not immune to political pressure either as its board members, who are nominated by employers’ associations and labour unions, are appointed by the employment minister.

“We do need improved political discussions with ATP,” Employment Minister Troels Lund Poulsen told Reuters.

He proposed annual meetings between the members of the relevant parliament committees and ATP’s board and management, stressing however that he and other politicians should not dictate ATP’s investment policies in details.

“I think that there is a need for the parliamentarians to be able to ask the board members questions directly, and give the advice they find necessary, and that’s why I think we need this more open process,” Poulsen said.

The focus on tax treatment has intensified in Denmark after a money laundering scandal involving its largest lender Danske Bank and a wider European dividend stripping scandal.

“I hope that ATP have learned from their history,” Poulsen said when asked by Reuters if he was disappointed with the pension fund. He was speaking after a meeting of the parliament’s employment committee about ATP.

ATP is being run by interim CEO Bo Foged, but a permanent solution should be found before the summer, the fund’s chairman Torben M. Andersen told Danish online outlet Finanswatch this month.

ATP did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for a comment.

(Reporting by Teis Jensen; Editing by Keith Weir)

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