Pension rights and ownership: A legal analysis in an economic context

This research focuses upon the question: “Who is the owner of the supplementary pension?”
Various policy documents indicate that the ownership rights on retirement are unclear (Social Economic Committee 2015-1, National Pension Dialogue 2015). The Dutch Central Bank has indicated that a clear definition of property rights is a feature of a sustainable pension system (DNB position paper 2015). It therefore appears that a widespread need exists for an adequate legal definition of pension rights. At the same time, the question arises as to whether it is possible and desirable to give pension rights the “firmness” and protection specific to the right of ownership in the Dutch Civil Code. Following this research, it may turn out that a purely contractual claim (an “economic ownership right”) is the most that can be achieved.

In this project we will:

  1. Identify current legal and economic ownership rights in relation to pensions;
  2. Make recommendations for the clarification of legal ownership rights on retirement, whereby we differentiate according to type of pension contract and pension provider;
  3. Explore whether Anglo-American trust law (fiduciary obligations) can fill any gaps in the incomplete pension contract; and
  4. Present an appropriate legal framework on pensions for ownership rights that should facilitate pension changes and innovations.

The results of this research will contribute to the sustainability of the Dutch pension system, and enable the legislator, the social partners, and pension providers to amend and implement innovations in the pension system and/or pension plans.

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Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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