They referred to concerns raised in 2017 by Jane Hutton, a professor of statistics at Warwick University and member of USS’ trustee board. According to a report earlier this month in the Financial Times, Hutton claimed she was frustrated in her attempts to analyse and address concerns over the 2017 valuation, and has raised a whistle-blower complaint with the Pensions Regulator (TPR).“The trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in the interests of scheme members,” the letter stated. “A board member, with expertise in statistics, raised serious concerns about the quality of the evidence and analysis being presented to the board.“How were these concerns addressed and investigated by the board of trustees? Did the rest of the trustees investigate these claims adequately and act in the interests of scheme members?“If the trustees or the USS executive are unable to act in the interests of scheme members, then they should resign. If the employer- and union-appointed trustees are failing to act in the interests of scheme members, then it is the responsibility of UUK and of the UCU to replace the trustees.”The academics said an inquiry was “urgently needed” in order to assess the pension fund’s statements and conduct regarding the valuation, as well as that of the trustees and TPR. “It would be appropriate for a select committee of parliament to investigate,” the letter stated.The Work and Pensions Committee, a cross-party group of MPs from the UK parliament’s lower house, have previously taken an interest in USS. Frank Field, the committee’s chair, wrote to USS chief executive Bill Galvin in 2017 demanding answers regarding the scheme’s reported £12.6bn deficit. More than 1,000 UK-based academics have demanded that the government launch an inquiry into governance arrangements at the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).In an open letter published in the Financial Times today, signed by 1,012 academic staff from 68 universities, the signatories claimed the behaviour of USS’ trustee board and executive regarding its 2017 valuation had “brought the scheme into disrepute”.The valuation led to a decision to close the defined benefit (DB) section, prompting nationwide strikes and resulting in an as yet unresolved stand off between the University and College Union (UCU) and the employers’ representative body, Universities UK (UUK).In the letter, the academics raised “issues of concern over the governance” of USS, which at more than £64bn (€72bn) is the UK’s largest funded DB scheme.
“The drop in CPO [crude palm oil] price throughout 2019 has affected the company’s performance,” said Astra Agro president director Santosa in a statement on Wednesday after holding an annual shareholders meeting.The company, which manages 286,877 hectares of palm oil plantation in three provinces, reported it had faced difficulties last year as the CPO price had fallen to a record low of $497 per ton at the start of the second half of the year.Last year’s prolonged dry season and the El Nino climate phenomenon had also affected the company’s output.However, the recent spike in the CPO price and the government’s mandatory B30 blended biodiesel program has restored the company’s optimism. Read also: Coronavirus drags down commodity prices as demand from China dropsAstra Agro booked Rp 371.06 billion in revenue in the January to March period, a dramatic 892 percent increase year-on-year.“The positive performance in the first quarter of 2020 is evidence of our operational excellence and cost efficiency,” Santosa said.In the first quarter of the year, the company’s production of fresh fruit brunches dropped 8.5 percent to 1.1 million tons, while its CPO production decreased 14.6 percent to 354 tons due to unfavorable weather conditions. It, however, managed to raise its olein output by around 21 percent to 101,100 tons.“The weather affected the production of fresh fruit brunches in the first quarter of the year,” said Santosa.While many non-essential businesses were temporarily shut down, Astra Agro Lestari continued its plantation and factory operations according to COVID-19 protocols. Only its office employees have worked from home since March in compliance with stay-at-home orders.“We have developed a digitization program over the past three years so it is not difficult to operate the plantation amid this pandemic,” said Santosa.Read also: Indonesia’s palm oil exports drop 19% in first two monthsDuring the shareholders meeting, the company also made a change in leadership. Johannes Loman, who currently serves as a director at conglomerate PT Astra International, replaced Djony Bunarto Tjondro as a commissioner at Astra Agro. Ari Dono Sukmanto, a former acting National Police chief between late October and early November, joined the board as an independent commissioner.Shares of Astra Agro, traded on the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) with the code AALI, dropped 3.37 percent on Wednesday while the main gauge, the Jakarta Composite Index (JCI) fell 2.27 percent. The stocks have lost more than 17 percent of their value in the last year, Bloomberg data show.Topics : Publicly listed palm oil company PT Astra Agro Lestari announced Wednesday that it would spend 45 percent of last year’s profit, around Rp 94.95 billion (US$6.76 million) in dividends, rewarding its shareholders despite declining productivity.The company, which is a subsidiary of diversified conglomerate PT Astra International, will pay a lower dividend per share of Rp 49 compared to Rp 336 in 2019 as its revenue fell 8.5 percent to Rp 17.45 trillion last year.Read also: Astra steps on the brakes as car demand crashes