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World’s biggest pension fund to add board in governance overhaul

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(Bloomberg) — Japan’s public pension fund moved closer to completing a long-awaited governance revamp as the health ministry released a plan to install a mostly independent management committee to oversee its investments.

The $1.1 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) will establish a 10-person committee consisting of nine outsiders and GPIF’s president, the ministry said in a proposal Friday in Tokyo. The new body will be responsible for decision-making and supervising how the pension fund invests its assets, the health ministry said. The aim is to submit a bill to the ordinary session of Japan’s Diet, which usually starts in January.

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The world’s biggest pension fund doubled its allocation to stocks and reduced debt in October 2014, following the advice of a panel handpicked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on how to modernize the fund as Japan sought to exit 15 years of deflation. The other prong of the recommendations — changing how GPIF is run by adding the equivalent of a board of directors and separating investment and oversight — has taken longer to materialize.

“It’s good that change is happening after all these discussions,” said Hiroaki Hiwada, a Tokyo-based strategist at Toyo Securities Co., said by phone. “The revamp of the governance structure is in tune with the times.”

The management committee will have one representative for labor, one from the business world and at least one full-time member, according to the ministry’s proposal. They will have five-year terms. GPIF’s chief investment officer, currently Hiromichi Mizuno, can attend meetings but will not be on the committee, according to the plan. 

Collegiate style

Much of GPIF’s authority currently resides with the president, Takahiro Mitani. The changes will introduce a more collegiate style of making decisions, as proposed in November 2013 by the panel picked by Abe.

GPIF posted its worst quarterly loss since at least 2008 in the three months ended September after a global stock rout eroded $64 billion of value from its investments.

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