Hearing date set for action over €23m Coillte pension deficit

Trustees of pension are seeking judgment against State forestry authority

Pension trustees claim Coillte owes €23 million under previous obligations.

Pension trustees claim Coillte owes €23 million under previous obligations.

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 14:53

A hearing date has been fixed next month for an action over a €23 million deficit in the pension scheme of State forestry body Coillte Teoranta affecting 2,000 people.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly set July 15th for the Commercial Court hearing, in which the scheme trustees are claiming €23 million judgment against Coillte, after being told today there is still no legally binding agreement in place to tackle the deficit.

Brian O’Moore SC, for the trustees, said the matter had dragged on for half a decade but, since the court proceedings were taken last March, progress was achieved.

The trustees received queries last Thursday from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform regarding particular matters and needed a short time to respond to those, he said.

Mr O’Moore initially sought one final two week adjournment during which it was hoped a deal would be reached but, when the judge suggested a trial date be fixed for July 15th as matters had dragged on “far too long” with progress achieved “at a snail’s pace”, counsel said he had no difficulty with that.

Engagement between the sides will continue in the interim in the hope a final agreement will yet be reached.

Jonathan Newman BL, for Coillte, said his side would have difficulties should a trial date be set and would prefer an adjournment. The judge said he was had little sympathy for that application given the defendant’s delay in progressing matters.

The court was previously told the agreement required approval of two Government Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and for Agriculture.

On May 22nd, Mr Justice Kelly adjourned the case for four weeks peremptorily against the company.

On that occasion, Mr O’Moore said the trustees believed they were “within an ace” of agreement and Mr Newman said there had been “tremendous” progress but more time was necessary because the matter was complex.

Last March, Mr Justice Kelly agreed to fast-track the action in the Commercial Court. The trustees claim the company owes €23 million under obligations in a trust deed of 2000 and a December 2009 funding proposal for the scheme entered into due to the scheme being in deficit in 2009.

The funding proposals required €34.5 million cash and assets to be contributed by Coillte up front. While Coillte paid €3 million cash in 2009 and €1.5 million each year from 2009, it late last year only transferred €7 millionof the €30 million cash assets it was to transfer.

Coillte claims transfer of the remaining €23 million was contingent on the sale of immature forests which required State approval but the trustees insisted no such contingency was set out in the funding proposal.