Article 43

 

Pension Ripoff

Posts in this section are about pension issues - especially the class action pension suit against AT&T.

Friday, December 25, 2020

AT&T Cuts Retiree Pension and Healthcare

image: retirement

AT&T Cuts Retiree Pension and Healthcare

Techstaffer
December 18, 2020

As a recruiter I’m often asked about benefit packages offered by certain companies.  Over the last year there have been substantive changes in benefits coming from Fortune 500 companies with most of the changes going the wrong way. We’ve seen many large corporations choose to cut employee benefits whether that be pension, 401(k), or healthcare. VERIZON created headlines all the way back in 2005 when they announced they would freeze their pension program. In the years to come many corporations followed suite by moving to defined contribution plans as opposed to defined benefit plans. This trend culminated in General Electric deciding to freeze the largest pension fund in the United States. Other corporations have decided to target 401(k) plans.  ExxonMobil announced earlier this year that they would suspend their 401(k) matching program indefinitely. Which brings us to AT&T

A surprise announcement was made on Monday where AT&T stated in a Memo that they will be reducing benefits in 2021 and 2022. I wanted to make sure my AT&T clients were informed about what exactly is going away.

AT&T CEO John Stankey has expressed a goal of $10 billion in cost cuts and the company has made it clear that workers benefits are next on the chopping block.

So who will be affected by these cuts? Employees retiring after 2022 will be hit the hardest, as they will lose all medical coverage typically given to retirees. AT&T will no longer supplement monthly premiums for medical or dental. This may not affect all employees. You should call the benefit office to inquire about your particular situation.

This announcement comes on the heels of AT&T alerting employees that they will no longer offer a Healthcare reimbursement account for those who retired after January 1st 2021. Currently things like out of pocket costs, supplemental coverage, and incremental coverage are covered by a healthcare reimbursement account from AT&T. According to AT&T’s Summary Plan description the HRA credit is worth $2,700 for an employee and $1,500 for an eligible dependent. If an employee takes full advantage of this benefit this would be worth $4,200 per year. Over a 20 year period this could save an employee and their family about $84,000. 

AT&T pension benefits are being reduced as well. AT&T uses a Career Average Minimum (CAM) or a Pension Band Minimum (PBM) formula to calculate your pension contributions. Your CAM benefit is determined by multiplying your career pension compensation by a percentage and then dividing by 12. Currently that percentage is 1.6%. After January 1st 2022 that percentage will drop to 1%.

Management employees may receive a benefit based on the PBM formula. The PBM benefit is determined by multiplying a percentage by your pension compensation. Currently that percentage is 1.2%. After January 1st 2022 that percentage will be reduced to 0.75%.

AT&T is not the only company to cut benefits during the pandemic. History shows time and time again that when a recession hits corporations will decrease or suspend benefits. We witnessed this in the 2001 recession when General Motors, Charles Schwab, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, & Ford all decreased or suspended their company match programs. The same happened in 2008, with Forbes reporting that nearly 20% of companies with over 1,000 employees reduced or SUSPENDED 401(k) contributions.  Unfortunately, that trend seems to be continuing in the wake of the current recession brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. According to CNBC, 8% OF EMPLOYEES HAVE REDUCED OR SUSPENDED 401(k) CONTRIBUTIONS THIS YEAR ALONE. Major companies like Amtrak, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, and ExxonMobil have all suspended their 401(k) matching programs. In ExxonMobil’s case employees lost a company match of up to 7%, severely hindering an employee’s ability to save for retirement. AT&T’s cuts will also make it significantly more challenging for retirees to make their money last as long as they need.

Questions you need to ask yourself now on the risks of leaving and potential risks of staying at AT&T

Should I consider retiring now to lock in my company subsidy and look for another job outside of AT&T?

Are their jobs in my specialty available if I do leave?

Will my pension grow if I do stay?

Will my lump sum pension decrease If interest rates go up next year?

Would it be better to leave now with the healthcare subsidy and work a 20-hour per week job or would I do better if I stay and hope I do not get laid off?

Should I look for a contracting job in winter or wait until next year?

It is my hope that by being aware of these cuts and questions you can ask yourself can plan accordingly and make sound financial decisions going forward.

SOURCE

Links:

Santone, Angela. “AT&T: Updates to Your Retirement Benefits.” AT&T Memo, AT&T Inc., 15 Dec. 2020

“The Retirement/Transition Guide for AT&T Employees.” The Retirement Group, The Retirement Group, 11 Aug. 2020, https://telecom.theretirementgroup.com/att-guide-download-google

AT&T Nonbargained Summary Plan Description, 2020

Posted by Elvis on 12/25/20 •
Section Pension Ripoff
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Friday, January 03, 2020

Retirement Ripoff Sequel 2

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‘It’s really over’: Corporate pensions head for extinction as nature of retirement plans changes

By Nathan Bomey
December 10, 2019
USA Today

The practice of companies sending monthly retirement checks to their former workers is headed for extinction, and remaining pension funds are in tough financial shape.

Nearly two-thirds of pension funds are considering dropping guaranteed benefits to new workers within the next five years, according to a human resources consulting firm that studied the matter.

Despite gains in the stock market this year, U.S. pension plans are near their worst financial state in two years, according to the new report by Mercer, which casts a spotlight on the escalating cost of past promises to employees.

Most U.S. companies no longer offer defined-benefit pensions, which typically provided guaranteed monthly payments to workers when they retired. But pension funds that still operate must gain in value to ensure they have enough to meet their obligations.

By late 2019, the average pension fund had 85% of the funds necessary to meet its obligations over time due largely to low interest rates, according to Mercer’s 2020 Defined Benefit Outlook.

The firm also reported that 63% of companies with defined-benefit pensions “are considering termination” of the plan within half a decade. That would mean the pensions would be closed off to future participants.

The report comes as corporate pensions continue to disappear.

General Electric announced in October that it would offer lump-sum pension buyouts to about 100,000 former U.S. employees who have not yet begun receiving their pensions.

The company, which has been facing pressure to bolster its finances, also announced plans to freeze pension benefits for about 20,700 salaried pensioners at current levels.

“In the bigger picture, GE is just going the way that most of the private sector in the United States has gone,” Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, said in a recent interview. “Its really over in the private sector. The question is, just when does the last plan close down?”

The number of pension plans offering defined benefits - which means the payouts are guaranteed plummeted by about 73% from 1986 to 2016, according to the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration.

That’s due to a mix of reasons, including risk, costs, declining union power and the rise of 401(k)-style defined-contribution plans, which require workers to kick in their own funds for retirement investments, often with a company match.

SOURCE

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image: 401k bomb

Opinion: Recent surveys show sharp decline in retirement wealth for typical household

By Alicia H. Munnell
MarketWatch
January 2, 2020

In preparation for a recent presentation, I asked for data to documentthe increasing dependence on 401(k)s as opposed to traditional defined-benefit plans. One of the figures included total retirement wealth for households in the middle of the wealth distribution for five different cohorts.

I was stunned to see that retirement wealth, measured in 2016 dollars, had declined. That is, the wealth holdings for the late boomers (age 51 to 57) were actually lower than the wealth holdings for the mid boomers (age 57 to 63) at the same age .

Retirement wealth, which comes from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), includes:

1) Social Security;

2) employer-sponsored retirement plans (including defined-benefit plans);

3) non-defined-contribution financial wealth; and

4) housing wealth. Ages 51 to 56 were chosen because that is when the respondents in each new cohort enter the HRS, allowing the st

Even though the HRS is the gold standard for wealth and income data, the decline was so unexpected that I asked my colleague, Anqi Chen, to look at data from the Federal Reserves 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. While the only data readily available were holdings in defined-contribution plans, the pattern was similar to that found in the HRS. The wealth holdings of the late boomers were below those of both the mid and early boomers, who are age 63 to 69.

This pattern of decline is distressing. It suggests that fewer households in the middle of the wealth distribution have 401(k) assets. Given the decline in Social Security replacement rates, an increasing number of households will be falling short.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 01/03/20 •
Section Pension Ripoff • Section Dying America
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Bankruptcy Is The New Retirement

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Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society

Deborah Thorne
University of Idaho

Pamela Foohey
Indiana University - Maurer School of Law

Robert M. Lawless
University of Illinois - College of Law

Katherine M. Porter
University of California - Irvine School of Law

August 5, 2018

The social safety net for older Americans has been SHRINKING for the past couple decades. The risks associated with aging, reduced income, and increased healthcare costs, have been off-loaded onto older individuals. At the same time, older Americans are increasingly likely to file consumer bankruptcy, and their representation among those in bankruptcy has never been higher. Using data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, we find more than a two-fold increase in the rate at which older Americans (age 65 and over) file for bankruptcy and an almost five-fold increase in the percentage of older persons in the U.S. bankruptcy system. The magnitude of growth in older Americans in bankruptcy is so large that the broader trend of an aging U.S. population can explain only a small portion of the effect. In our data, older Americans report they are struggling with increased financial risks, namely inadequate income and unmanageable costs of healthcare, as they try to deal with reductions to their social safety net. As a RESULT of these increased financial burdens, the median senior bankruptcy filer enters bankruptcy with negative wealth of $17,390 as compared to more than $250,000 for their non-bankrupt peers. For an increasing number of older Americans, their golden years are fraught with economic risks, the result of which is often bankruptcy.

SOURCE

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Bankruptcy is hitting more older Americans, pointing to a retirement crisis in the making

By Michael Hiltzik
LA Times
Aug 6, 2018

Whether America is facing a retirement CRISIS in which seniors are making do with shrinking financial resources has been widely debated. But here’s a telling metric: Seniors are making a larger share of bankruptcy filings.

That’s the finding of a new paper by academic researchers affiliated with the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which periodically samples personal bankruptcy filings from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. “Older Americans are increasingly likely to file consumer bankruptcy,” they write, “and their representation among those in bankruptcy has never been higher.”

The figures should worry advocates for SENIORS, because in terms of the overall financial health of the 65+ cohort, its likely to be the tip of the iceberg. “Only a small fraction of those who are having financial troubles file for bankruptcy, one of the authors, Robert Lawless of the University of Illinois law school, told me. “So this is part of a much bigger story about financial distress among the elderly.”

It’s true that the elderly have been the beneficiaries since the 1930s of America’s strongest and most successful social safety net. The system was born with Social Security in 1935, which aimed to reduce the scandalous poverty rate among seniors. It was followed by Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, which offered relief for healthcare, and culminated in the Medicare prescription drug program enacted in 2003.

During that same period, a sizable percentage of American workers were covered by corporate defined-benefit pensions, producing what retirement experts have called “a brief golden age” when many American workers could retire with confidence.

Over the last few decades, however, confidence in that safety net has ebbed. Defined-benefit plans have given way to defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s, which saddle workers with all the risk of investment market downturns - and in which wealthier workers are overrepresented, both in enrollment rates and balances.

Some older Americans may have more access to retirement income than their forebears, but theyre also carrying more debt. The share of Americans still carrying mortgage debt when they reach age 65 rose to 38% in 2013 from 22% in 1995, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. Their mortgage balances also have risen over that period, to $73,000 from $27,300 in inflation-adjusted terms. Despite Medicare, medical expenses remain a large component of “seniors” financial burdens.

It’s also proper to keep in mind that the stagnation of wages for workers is certain to have an impact as today’s workers move into retirement. Jobs that once offered a stable middle-class income with benefits have morphed into low-wage jobs without job security, healthcare or pensions. Workers struggling to make ends meet in an economy in which corporate profits are approaching a post-recession record arent likely to become suddenly flush in their retirement years.

The bankruptcy paper has sustained some criticism from commentators who believe the retirement crisis has been exaggerated. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones observed, fairly enough, that the bankruptcy rate for the 65+ cohort hasn’t changed at all over the last 15 years, and the run-up in the rate during the decade 1991-2001 reflects a sharp increase in the rate among all Americans and that increase began in the mid-1980s.

But I would argue that more seems to be going on here. To begin with, the bankruptcy bulge seems to be moving up the age ladder. In 1991, 8.2% of all bankruptcy filings were made by households led by people 55 or older; by the 2013-2016 period, their share was 33.7%. According to the new paper, the bankruptcy rates among all age groups 54 and younger have fallen since 1991, but the rates for all groups 55 and older have risen.

This isn’t related to the general graying of the U.S. population. As Lawless observes, the over-65 population has risen by 16% since 1991. But bankruptcy filings in that cohort have increased by 2 times.

“This is not a trend, but something qualitatively different in what were seeing,” he says.

Lawless and his colleagues point out that while bankruptcy is a last resort for any debtor and nothing like the panacea its often depicted to be, itҒs an especially dire choice for seniors. Unlike younger debtors, seniors dont have years ahead of them to rebuild their household finances while their debts are held in abeyance. ғBy the time they file bankruptcy, the paper observes, ԓtheir wealth has vanished.

America has some serious policy choices to make, and pretending that seniors are living the high life on Social Security doesn’t clarify matters, especially as the claim is typically made by conservatives as a rationale to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The figures on bankruptcy suggest that the opposite is necessary expanding Social Security and increasing benefits to shore up retiree resources against the decline of personal savings and pension income. The guaranteed retirement accounts advocated by a number of retirement experts - personal accounts funded by workers and employers during their working years, supported by a tax credit and a government guarantee against loss of principal - are a promising option. America has more than enough resources to make sure, as it did in the 1930s, that its seniors won’t be facing their last years fearing penury.

SOURCE

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Entering retirement broke and bankrupt

By Aimee Picchi
MoneyWatch
August 6, 2018

The “golden years” of retirement are significantly tarnished for some older Americans, whose ranks among the bankrupt have surged fivefold since 1991.

Even though the U.S. population is aging, the spike in older Americans entering bankruptcy far exceeds the demographic shift, according to new research from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which analyzed data from bankruptcy court records and written questionnaires. About 100,000 of the 800,000 annual bankruptcy filings are from households headed by seniors, or about 12.2 percent of all filings.

The culprit appears to be cutbacks in the social safety net—such as raising the retirement age and requiring seniors to pay more out-of-pocket health care costs—as well as a shift in risk from government and corporations onto individuals. Americans are less likely today to retire with a private pension, given the growing popularity of 401(k)s, where workers are responsible for making their own investment and savings decisions, and more likely to be carrying mortgage and credit card debt into their 60s and 70s.

The full retirement age for Social Security, once 65, is inching up every year. And retirees are now paying 20 percent of their income on health care expenses even though they are covered by Medicare, compared with 12 percent for previous generations.

As a result, the rate of bankruptcy among Americans over age 65 has doubled over the period studied by the researchers. “For an increasing number of older Americans, their golden years are fraught with economic risks, the result of which is often bankruptcy,” their report noted.

Because one-quarter of the country will be older than 65 by 2050 compared with 15 percent now, the authors predict America will see a “coming storm of broke elderly.”

Older and poorer

The problem with these societal risk shifts, as the authors view it, is that seniors are the group least able to cope with such changes. Because of their age, they have fewer years to build or rebuild wealth, and it’s common for older Americans to have trouble finding jobs that pay as much as they earned when they were younger, they noted.

“Retirement is a particularly precarious time of life,” they wrote.

Bankruptcy is designed to provide a “fresh start” by wiping away debts or restructuring them in a way that makes it easier to pay them down, but bankrupt seniors don’t have enough time to regrow their financial wealth, they added.

Bankrupt seniors are in rough financial shape, the researchers found. They are shouldering more than $100,000 in debt, compared with $1,000 in debt for their non-bankrupt peers. Financially solvent senior citizens have about $251,000 in wealth, but bankrupt older Americans have negative net wealth of more than $17,000.

Older Americans who file for bankruptcy are less likely than their younger peers to have a college degree, although there’s no racial difference between older and younger debtors, the researchers found. But across the general population, Asian-Americans and Hispanics are less likely to file for bankruptcy than white or black Americans.
“All things went up in price”

Older Americans who file for bankruptcy told the researchers in survey responses that they were often hit by a double-whammy: inadequate retirement income and rising costs—especially health care costs.

“All things went up in price,” one unidentified respondent told the researchers. “Retirement never went up. Had a part time job that was helping to meet monthly payments. House payment kept going up. Was fired from my part time job that I had for over 10 years without any warning. Being 67 and having back problems, not many people will hire you even as part time worker.”

Others noted their health problems resulted in a loss of their job or income, while their insurance didn’t fully cover their health expenses.

“I got to the point I owed more than I was making on Social Security. To get out from under these medical bills I had to file bankruptcy,” another respondent told the researchers.

About 7 out of 10 respondents indicated that the combination of medical expenses and missing work contributed to their bankruptcies.

Asked what they were unable to afford in the year before going bankrupt, half of seniors said the most important thing they had to cut back on was medical care, such as surgeries, prescriptions and dental care.

“These responses continue to suggest that their health care coverage is inadequate,” the researchers wrote.

Taken together, the portrait of retirement in the U.S. is one of instability and risk, at least for some Americans. And bankruptcy, while designed to provide some relief, may be “too little too late.”

They added, “By the time they file, their wealth has vanished, and they simply do not have the enough years to get back on their feet.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/21/18 •
Section Pension Ripoff • Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Personal
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Thursday, August 09, 2018

ATT Pension Clawback

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Remember the ENGERS VS ATT lawsuit?

The one that took 10 years and WE LOST?

Looks like pensioners who didn’t get screwed back then - are getting hit now.

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AT&T overpaid some pensioners. Now the company wants the money back
The telecom giant has enlisted a collection agency, a step other companies in similar situations have declined to take.

By Theo Francis Bloomberg
Business Standard
August 4, 2018

When James Mizelle retired in 2001, he started drawing a pension from his 27-year career with AT&T and other phone companies.

Fifteen years later, he got a letter saying his benefits were miscalculated and demanding he repay $32,116.05. Mr. Mizelle, living in Round Hill, Va., replied that he couldnt repay. Within weeks, he heard from a collection agency.

ғThat money had been spent, says Mr. Mizelle, 70, who had incurred medica bills in a battle with prostate cancer. ԓI could not pay it back.

The former programmer and human-resources worker is among potentially hundreds of ex-employees whom AT&T Inc. has dunned in recent years for what it calls pension ԓoverpayments. AT&T sometimes has enlisted a collection agency to recover the money, a move retiree advocates, pension lawyers and some former Treasury Department officials call unusual.

Among them are 17 retirees from whom AT&T and Fidelity Investments, the pension planԒs record-keeper, have demanded a combined $1 million and who have contacted lawyers working with the Pension Rights Center, a retiree-advocacy nonprofit in Washington, DC, or related groups around the country, the center says.

AT&T spokesman says the pension overpayments affect significantly less than 1/10th of 1%Ӕ of its about 517,000 participants, with a very small percentageӔ referred to collections. He declines to say how the company identified the errors or how much money is at stake.

A Fidelity spokesman says the firm helped zero in on errors at AT&Ts direction, including some predating FidelityҒs role. AT&T and Fidelity decline to address the individual cases in this article.

Companies for years have been taking measures to recoup pension overpayments, an issue federal tax officials have tried to address going back to the 1990s with a series of refinements to rules governing when and how companies must rectify such errors.

AT&T appears to have gone a step beyond many other large companies by sticking to its demands of full repayment and hiring a collection agency in some cases, even where retirees make the case that they lack the wherewithal to repay.

Sydney Smith, a former AT&T information-technology analyst living in the St. Louis area, received a letter in July 2016 saying she owed AT&Ts pension plan $19,306.95 - money she had received, the company later told her, because she provided a date in the pension-benefit calculation that the plans website shouldn’t have let her use.

Ms. Smith says she told Fidelity she didnt have the money. A single mother, she had cashed out her pension to pay debts and living expenses. ғI used it, says Ms. Smith, 42. ԓIts gone.Ҕ

She asked about a repayment plan and was told she could make two payments of nearly $10,000 each, she says. She didnt have that. Days after the plan denied her appeals, Ms. Smith says, she began getting calls from Lyon Collection Services Inc., the same agency that demanded repayment of Mr Mizelle. “They started to call pretty constantly.” Ms. Smith enlisted Roger Curme, a lawyer with the South Central Pension Rights Project, a legal-assistance service funded in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We havent seen that before,” Mr. Curme says of a big companys using a collection agency. “These tactics that AT&T is using - they’re kind of harsh.

Ms. Smith filed a claim with the plan asking it to waive repayment but was denied. The plan also denied her subsequent appeal. She hasn’t heard from the company since February, she says, and is hopeful she wont. Yet, she adds, “its not resolved - its still up in the air.”

Lyon Collection President Rick Mantin says his firm follows laws governing consumer collections and his employees are persistent without harassing customers. He declines to comment on individual cases or clients and says the company doesn’t focus on retirees. “Debtors have the right to request that Lyon cease any further communication with them,” he says, “which we immediately honor.”

In general, pension lawyers say, it is legal for a company to demand back pension overpayments. Pension-plan sponsors and administrators have an obligation to safeguard a plan’s assets. Companies for years have interpreted that obligation to include not just stopping overpayments but also requiring repayment. Often, plans recoup what they can by reducing retirees remaining benefits.

“Not recouping the monies would mean that there would be fewer funds available for distribution to other participants,” the Fidelity spokesman says.

Pension lawyers say that in recent years some employers and plan administrators have grown skittish about giving retirees a pass for even small overpayments. They point to Internal Revenue Service guidance that suggested plans had to pursue repayments vigorously or risk losing key tax benefits, such as deductions for employer contributions and tax-free investment returns.

Among companies recently requesting paybacks is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s U.S. unit, which says that in 2016 it notified several hundred retirees that their pension checks were incorrect. About 300 people, or 0.3% of its pension recipients, received more than they were supposed to, it says.

The company says it followed federal regulations when asking retirees to return overpayments and doesnt use a collections service. On average, it says, those getting extra payments were receiving benefits of $24,000 a year. Three-quarters of them were asked to repay $3,000 or less. Of the rest, the average recovery the company sought was 3.7% of the retireeҒs monthly benefit,and none was more than 8%.

Had they known the correct payment amount, some retirees might have made different life decisions, such as when to retire or where to move, says Jay Kuhnie, president of the National Chrysler Retirement Organization, a retiree-advocacy group. They might have said, that’s not as much as I thought, Im going to work another 4 to 5 years,Ҕ he says. The retiree has no way of going back.Ӕ

AT&Ts collection agency AT&T’s pension plans have $45 billion in assets, enough to pay about 77 cents on every dollar of pension benefits earned so far by all current and former employees and retirees for their full life expectancy, as well as other beneficiaries. Lawyers who work with retirees say they rarely see referrals to collections agencies by a large company. Some former Treasury Department officials who worked on recoupment issues say it wasn’t something they had seen before.

ғAn awful lot of plan sponsors, just as a matter of culture, are not very enthusiastic about chasing down their retirees to recover overpayments, says Brian Dougherty, co-leader of the plan-sponsor task force at the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

The AT&T spokesman says ԓour approach is common and similar to how most other employers handle this issue and follows federal pension rules, treating retirees ethically. The Fidelity spokesman says that ԓhaving a third party to assist with contacting plan participants in seeking reimbursement is a common practice among many employers in the industry.

Faced with complaints from retirees whose pension benefits had been reduced, officials at the Treasury Department and the IRS in 2015 issued new guidance, clarifying that plans could recover funds in other ways instead, including from contractors responsible for errors. Companies could also replace the missing funds themselves, or modify plan rules retroactively to accommodate the overpayments, according to the guidance. “It clarified that plan sponsors were not always required to recoup inadvertent overpayments and pursue all available legal remedies to do so,” says Mark Iwry, a Treasury Department official from 2009 to 2017 who worked on retirement policy. The guidance “took a step toward making the system more practical, workable, and humane.”

Some pension experts have concluded that overpayments essentially never harm plan finances, says Richard Shea, who advises employers as head of the employee-benefits law practice at Covington & Burling LLP. That’s because employers must set aside enough money to cover a lifetime of benefits based on what retirees actually receive, not some earlier estimate.

The way the funding rules work, you’ve already got it, he says. “You don’t have to get it back.” Telephone-company pensions may be more prone to mistakes than others, thanks to the federal breakup of the Bell System monopoly in the mid-1980s. Often, workers pensions accompanied them as they moved among the company’s successors.

An operators case Some errors AT&T identified amount to double-counting, in which retirees received benefits reflecting their full careers plus additional payments reflecting part of the same history.

Eileen Ralston of Daytona Beach, Fla., joined what was AT&T’s Pacific Telephone in 1970 as an operator. She left telephone work in the mid-1980s, then rejoined the new AT&T in 1986 as an operator. She began collecting her AT&T pension of $921.83 a month soon after leaving in 1999. Shortly before turning 65, she says, she called AT&Ts pension administrators and was surprised to hear she was entitled to another $546.73. “I said, are you sure about this? Because I get an AT&T pension,” says Ms. Ralston, 75. “They said, no, this is your pension for your previous service.”

Just before Ms. Ralston’s September 2017 birthday, Fidelity told her in a letter that the additional benefit was a mistake and that she owed $58,500.11.It was about two years after she suffered a heart attack. “I thought I was going to have another one,” she says. Every time I get something in the mail from AT&T that says “benefits department, I get a cold chill up my back.”

AT&T offered to halve her remaining pension to $444.89 a month. After Ms. Ralston consulted a lawyer, she received a letter from AT&T in February reaffirming the debt but adding that “your overpayment information will not be sent to an outside collections agency at this time.”

She hasn’t repaid and worries AT&T might come after her again.

Claudia Jones worked for Bell South and then AT&T for about 16 years, she says, before being laid off in 2015. She took her pension in a lump sum and invested it in an annuity that pays about $600 a month.

In March, she got a letter from AT&T and Fidelity saying her benefit had been miscalculated and that she would have to repay $45,300.17. “Say they did miscalculate,” says Ms. Jones, 66. “We shouldnt be punished for that.” In late June, she says, she started receiving calls from Lyon Collection. She can’t afford to pay, she says, and isn’t sure what shell do.

AT&T left Mr. Mizelle, too, in limbo. Fidelity in a letter wrote that “the Plan will recover the excess benefit amount by any means that are available.”

He enlisted a lawyer to file a claim with the plan, arguing that he no longer had the additional money and that requiring repayment would cause him financial hardship. The plan rejected his claim. The committee that denied his subsequent appeal wrote him reiterating the debt but saying it decided not to pursue further collection attempts of the overpayment amount at this time, without waiving any rights to resume the collection process in the future.

SOURCE

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Here’s another topic about AT&T:

They changed my wireless plan and raised the bill without notice.

Rep on the phone wasn’t too friendly and only offered plans that cost more.

No grandfathering.

I found THIS on the internet.

Posted by Elvis on 08/09/18 •
Section Pension Ripoff
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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Kiss Boeing Workers Pensions Good Bye

retire.gif

Boeing Machinists Narrowly Approve End to Pensions

By Jim Levitt
Labor Notes
January 6, 2014

Corporate America beat us, by a hair: on a 51 percent to 49 percent vote, BOEING’S CONCESSIONARY CONTRACT was approved Friday.

It passed by about 600 votes, in a much smaller turnout than the VOTE BACK IN NOVEMBER.

Less than 100 people were in the room for the vote-count announcement, in stark contrast to other times weve voted on a contract. The few hardy souls who came to the main Seattle hall of Machinists (IAM) District Lodge 751 seemed stunned when the results were read. Only one or two shouted anything, and within a minute the room was empty. It all ended with barely a whimper.

But the effects will be profound. Besides losing the defined-benefit pension (current employees will continue to accrue service time until September 2016, at which time the plan will be frozen; new hires will get only a 401(k)), we’ve lost collective bargaining, for all intents and purposes.

Two times now, in a three-year period, Boeing has come after us for concessions while we still had a year (in 2011) or three years (2013) left on our contract. Both times, the company has used the threat of moving the next generation of a given airplane program (737 in 2011, 777X in 2013) if we didn’t comply.

Because we are under contract, we had no strike weapon to provide leverage.

This new contract will be in place until 2024. Boeing will be looking to revamp at least a couple of other airplane programs before then guaranteeing that the company will be back for another bite of the apple.

“Take It or We Leave” is THE NEW MODUS OPERANDI.

At this point 47 percent of the IAM workforce at Boeing is 50 or older. Many of those workers will retire in the next decade. By the time 2024 rolls around, a distinct majority of the union membership will have no experience of a normal contract negotiation, or of a strike.

The question is already being raised by members: What is the union for? Whats the point?

Mood Was Grim

The atmosphere in Everett, where 17,000 union members work, was very strange on voting day. Members needed an eligibility card, sent to them by mail, to obtain a ballot to vote on the contract. A huge number did not receive the card in time. They thus needed to obtain a Œgood standing card, requiring a stop at the front desk in the union hall.

Problem: only two or three office employees were available at the Everett hall. There are only two or three computers for them to use to check the necessary rosters in any case.

Result: thousands of union members spent two hours or more waiting in line out in the cold outside the union hall. (It was tame by Midwest standards, but we specialize in a damp cold out here.) I’m astonished there wasn’t an explosion. Almost everyone just put up with it.

Very few signs, no chanting, no nothing. And it was impossible to read the mood.

When I got to the union headquarters in Seattle, the staff was as uncertain as I was. While we were waiting for the count in Everett to finish, we heard that the count in Auburn had favored passage. Auburn is where the Fabrication Division has its largest plant, with many older workers, including a large proportion of skilled machinists. These have traditionally been strong supporters of strikes.

But what I heard was that many of these guys figured that even if we rejected the contract now, Boeing was going to crunch us on the pension in 2016. So why not take the $10,000 bonus, and the boost in the monthly pension payout to $95/month per year of service that goes into effect in September 2016?

Finally, at 10 pm, District Lodge President Tom Wroblewski came into the hall to announce the results. Union spokespeople took no questions after reading the very short statement.

The union didn’t release an official vote count, but the Seattle Times reported there were about 23,900 votes altogether. Turnout was lower than November in part because this time the International deliberately scheduled the vote when many members, especially long-timers, would still be away on holiday vacations.

Will “Boeing Effect” Spread?

Boeing’s pressure and threats of the last month, aided by nearly all Washington state politicians and the media, clearly got to the membership. The public framework of the debate assumed that since workers elsewhere have been losing (pensions specifically, but wages as well), therefore Boeing workers should as well.

We were expected to sacrifice for the greater good of the region. Boeing’s extortion of the state, and of the union membership, was seen as business as usual. This was echoed in the statements of IAM International President Thomas Buffenbarger. Our efforts to defend our contract were completely undercut by the International.

Despite the verbiage in the most current edition of the IAMs publication, touting the importance of defined-benefit pensions, there is no way the IAM will be able to protect pensions anywhere.

The spillover effect on the rest of organized labor is obvious. The IAM workforce at Boeing is the largest unit in the IAM, and one of the last industrial unions with a defined-benefit pension.

I expect the rest of corporate America to mimic BoeingҒs tactics. Why wait until a contract is expiring? Just tell the union that it has to make concessions, or well do x, y, or zҒand it has to be done now, not when you will have the ability to strike.

Much of this echoes the concessionary bargaining that wrecked the auto workers and others. The difference here is that Boeing is immensely profitable.

In 2013 the company enjoyed record output, record profits, and a record stock priceup 80 percent. Plus, in November Washington state handed Boeing a package of tax breaks worth $8.7 billion, the largest any state has ever given a single corporation. Being told we had to sacrifice at the very same time Boeing handed out a $10 billion stock buyback and a 50 percent increase in the dividend (worth another $2 billion) only emphasized the unfairness of it all.

Oust Machinists President?

“Let’s put this vote behind us and go forward in solidarity,” wrote Wilson Ferguson, president of Local A (the largest local within District Lodge 751) and a strong proponent of a “no” vote both times, online. His statement was shared in a public Facebook group where members were discussing the deal. Ferguson wrote:

There is a lot of talk of pulling out of the International, that is a self defeating proposition. Our best strategy is to remove Buffy from office. That campaign starts today.

The loss of our pension is a big blow. Not only to us but to workers across the country. Maybe folks on the GUAV page [a vote yes Facebook page] are right that pensions are a thing of the past but it would have been nice to have had a good faith negotiation on the matter.

So while you may be happy that we accepted the deal, please don’t confuse a victory with the loss of something that folks fought, bled and sometimes died to win.

Jim Levitt is 35-year Machinist at Boeing.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 01/07/14 •
Section Pension Ripoff • Section Dying America
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