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CCWIPP Trustees Straighten Up and Fly...Backwards?

Written by Wanda Pasz Sunday, 02 April 2006

Just when they thought it was safe to go outside, the trustees of the UFCW's beleaguered Canadian Commercial Workers Industry Pension Plan (or cwip-sh*ts as we have taken to calling them), have been caught in another disingenuous attempt at damage control.

It's been a tough year for the motley crew of big shots who are responsible for looking after the solvency-challenged pension plan. Since the release, in May 2005, of a damning 80 page report by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, they've tried one lame-assed strategy after another to sweep their mess back under the carpet where it had quietly lurked for over a decade.

They began by sanctimoniously hissing at the regulator. When that didn't work, they issued a glossy union magazine which proclaimed that the regulator found nothing wrong with the pension plan except some administrative procedures had to be updated. When that didn't solve their public relations and other problems, the spineless wonders took to threatening members with lawsuits.

Their brazen efforts at spin-doctoring the regulator's findings earned them smack in a follow-up report issued by the regulator in December 2005, which chastized them for not taking the long list of findings of non-comliance seriously enough.

Last week saw a new twist in the ongoing sweep-up operation. A CCWIPP news release announced CCWIPP Appoints External Compliance Officer to Strengthen Pension Plan's Regulatory Compliance. Well, finally something that might actually make sense - retaining an outside professional to keep an eye on things seems like a step in the right direction. The value of external monitors is their independence - having an arm's length relationship with the people whose activities they're compliance-checking gives them the autonomy to make recommendations that might be unpopular. It's also supposed to give members a sense of confidence that the monitor is truly independent and is not going to be subject to pressure from the trustees or subject to threats of retaliation - like the loss of a job or future business. Could it be that the cwip-shits are finally going to straighten up and fly right?

Fat chance. The new compliance officer is "external" in that he is not employed directly by CCWIPP, but he's far from independent. As the cwip-shits themselves acknowledge in their media release, "Mr. Arnold is national practice leader, investment consulting, at Buck Consultants, which is also CCWIPP's actuarial firm.". As CCWIPP's actuarial firm, Buck Consultants stands to make big dollars each year by providing its services to the CCWIPP Board of Trustees. As Buck's National Practice Leader, Arnold has a strong vested interest in ensuring that his company keeps up good relations with them.

What's with the CCWIPP trustees? Even when they try to do something right, they fall flat on their faces. Their acknowledgement of Arnold's connection to their actuarial firm is just another example of how these guys just don't get it. In the words of one CCWIPP-watcher, "This is unfriggin' unbelievable! Why not hire Cliff Evans (the CCWIPP Investment Committee Chairman who bailed from the Board of Trustees last fall) to do compliance monitoring?"

Don't get us wrong CCWIPP boys. It's nice that you've retained Mr. Arnold to keep you on the straight and narrow. But you've been up to your asses in external consultants, advisers and other big-ticket helpers for years now and the results are...pages upon pages of non-compliance issues from the pension regulator. Spare us.

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