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21 Feb 08: Gentex Limited statement by Pensions Ombudsman

As a result of calls to my office, I am aware that a certain amount of confusion exists in relation to an old pension scheme for Gentex Limited, in respect of which payments have been offered recently by New Ireland Assurance plc.
Following enquiries, I can now state as follows:
The pension scheme in question was a defined benefit scheme, which gave fairly low levels of benefit, calculated on the basis of pay at the time the scheme was finally frozen, in 1984. When it was frozen, it had 143 members. It was invested in policies of the New Ireland Assurance Co Limited. These 143 people are the only people with any interest in the matter.
The Pensions Board, with which the scheme was registered under the Pensions Act, instructed that it should be wound up – which should have been done immediately following the closure of the Company, but for some reason this did not happen. In the absence of clear instructions from the trustees of the scheme, New Ireland wrote to the last-recorded home addresses of all 143 members. Bearing in mind that these are almost 25 years old, it is not surprising that some of these letters are at present being returned to the insurance company. However, since the existence of the scheme became known, a number of former Gentex workers have already contacted the New Ireland. When it becomes clear who has not yet been traced, it is intended to ask the Department of Social and Family Affairs to assist in forwarding information to them or their surviving relatives, so that everyone who has an entitlement can be paid.
I understand from the New Ireland that the benefits are expressed as small pensions payable from age 65. For those under 65, a surrender value will be offered. For those over 65, the amount offered will reflect arrears due since that age, plus interest. For those who have died before reaching age 65, a current actuarial value will be paid. The amounts are likely to be quite small.
Not surprisingly, a great many people who may have worked in Gentex in the past may feel that they have an entitlement under this scheme. This may not be so as, in those days, it would have been unusual to give “preserved” benefits on leaving service, unless this was due to some factor such as redundancy. The likelihood is that those who have an entitlement were operatives who were working for the company at the time it closed, or who were made redundant in the period immediately before that. There were two other schemes for different groups of workers in Gentex, but I understand these were wound up at the time of closure and benefits paid or secured for members.
My Office will continue to monitor the situation.
PAUL KENNY, Pensions Ombudsman. 21 February 2008