Articles include: “Pension Stripping Continues to be a Major Concern for Retirees,” “Retirees Gather in Atlantic City,” ” New Videos on our YouTube Channel” Download…
Archives for June 2014
Have your friends join our retiree army
ProtectSeniors.Org continues at the forefront of the fight to protect millions of retired and older working Americans from corporate tactics that threaten to reduce or eliminate our hard earned pensions and healthcare benefits.
All too often, we have seen retirees beaten down by corporations which have “de-risked” the pensions of more than one million retirees across the nation since 2009.
Our group has been leading the charge to pass federal legislation to strengthen ERISA and make it more difficult for companies to reduce or eliminate the pension and earned healthcare benefits guaranteed to retirees in our working years.
The growing and alarming trend of pension de-risking also has us working in numerous state capitals to enact state laws that will add critical protections for pensions that have been or will soon be de-risked. This advocacy is critically important in helping make sure you don’t fall victim to this trend and find yourself with little or no retirement benefits. We need your help!
Reach out today to former colleagues and friends and encourage them to become contributing members of ProtectSeniors.Org. If you belong to a retiree, social, or fraternal group, we ask that you share our newsletters and social media channels with them so they can become members too.
We need to join together before we all lose our earned protections to pension de-risking and other schemes intended to reduce or eliminate our benefits and leave us out in the cold.
ProtectSeniors.Org has members from many different companies, various labor unions, municipal, state and federal retiree groups, and 16 retiree associations. We simply can’t mobilize and make our voices heard unless more of you become active in this fight together with us.
Our impact is being felt by:
- Drafting the federal Employee Benefits Protection Act (HR1856) and testified before Congress to protect retirees’ earned health benefits from being cut or eliminated post-retirement;
- Achieved new law in Connecticut to protect retirees from creditor claims and is now advancing similar legal reforms in other states;
- Together with the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, created “best practices” for all 50 state legislatures to regulate pension de-risking and add protections;
- Successfully advocated for seven state insurance guaranty associations (Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada) to raise their lifetime protection caps from just $100,000 to $250,000 to better protect retirees whose pensions are converted to annuities;
- Successfully advocated for U.S. Department of Labor rules to strengthen fiduciary and conflict of interest requirements for financial managers overseeing retirement assets; and
- Spearheaded two-year effort with the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to warn of the growing risks of rapid pension de-risking and the loss of ERISA protections.
Please refer a friend to become a member. Make sure you have made your dues contribution in 2016. We can’t do it without you, your friends and your former colleagues.
Call us at 800-398-3044 or join us by visiting us online at https://protectseniors.org/join-us/
Corporations suing to stop improved fiduciary standard
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association are suing to block hard-won new rules that require asset managers to put the interests of their clients ahead of their own profits.
Earlier this year, ProtectSeniors.Org joined many others in petitioning the federal Department of Labor to adopt the new rule, aimed at preventing conflicts of interest that could harm retirees and erode their savings. The new rule ensures that investment managers put their clients’ interests ahead of their own ability to generate extra fees and commissions on investments.
Did you know that prior to this rule, advisers only had to provide “suitable” advice and could lead investors to retirement plans that lavished lucrative fees on themselves but did not serve the interests of the asset holder?
ProtectSeniors.Org believes that fiduciaries should be held to the highest standard of trust, which is why we supported this important rule change. Retirement investors need these protections, which is why ProtectSeniors.Org wrote to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez advocating for the change. The new regulations are slated to go into effect in April 2017.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit to block this effort would focus on a provision that allows retirement investors to sue their advisers if they believe the adviser did not act in their best interests.
Both the U.S. Senate and the House have also passed bills to kill the new consumer-friendly rule, which President Barack Obama vowed to veto.
ProtectSeniors.Org President Jim Casey said, “The fiduciary rule was designed to protect retirees from financial advisers looking to pocket excessive commissions and fees on our backs. We think it is outrageous that Wall Street investment firms are teaming up with large corporations to try to get this commons sense, consumer-friendly rule thrown out.”
Fighting de-risking at state level
You know and see that all of our pensions are at risk. Companies across the country are spinning off retiree pensions and cutting benefits. When companies de-risk your pension, they are taking away crucial federal protections from your hard-earned assets. That is why ProtectSeniors.Org is working tirelessly in state capitals to win legislation that will restore those protections and give back the guarantees that are lost.
Over the past few years, several major companies, including GM, Verizon, J.C. Penney, Kimberly Clark and more, have all de-risked retirees’ pensions. If your former employer de-risks your pension, you are dropped from the safety net you now enjoy under ERISA. That is why we urgently need state-level legislation to protect you against pension de-risking.
ProtectSeniors.Org has legislation in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts and we are drafting legislation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that would restore many of the protections you lose when your pension is de-risked. If you live in any of these states, we strongly encourage you to play a part and write to your elected officials about the importance of protections.
Here is where our legislative efforts stand in each state:
In 2015, ProtectSeniors.Org won a victory by helping pass a new law to protect de-risked assets against creditor claims. This law took effect in October 2015. Earlier this year we went back to advocate for even tougher protections for retirees.
HB 5445, “An Act Concerning the Purchase of An Annuity to Fund Pension Benefits,” which expanded upon the law which took effect in 2015, sought financial disclosures to retirees about the health of their de-risked assets and prevented future transfers of pension- annuities to any fiscally unhealthy entities. HB 5445 did not make it to the house floor for a vote, but plans are already underway to submit this bill again.
The New York legislation, S1092A/A6976B, would require companies that convert pensions to annuities to provide proper disclosures to all impacted retirees and prohibit the subsequent transfer of pension benefits without the approval by the New York State Superintendent of Financial Services. The legislation also provides significant creditor protections to retirees.
One of the New York’s most powerful elected officials, Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, who serves as the Senate minority leader, recently spoke of the importance of the measure to retirees. The bill has been referred to the Insurance Committee chaired by Senator James Seward and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill for further action.
House Bill No. 776, “An act to amend the insurance law, in relation to providing protections to certain retirees from pension de-risking transactions” is currently in the Rules Committee. The proposed legislation would provide retirees with protections comparable to what they had under ERISA.
The bill also prohibits the subsequent transfer of the retirees’ pension benefits without the approval of the Insurance Commissioner that the insurer acquiring the group annuity contract has the financial strength to fulfill its long-term obligations to all retirees. Finally, it would grant retirees sufficient notice that a de-risking transaction is going to occur and it would give them the chance to opt for a lump sum payment instead.
Pennsylvania/ New Jersey:
Legislation providing protections to retirees from pension de-risking is being drafted for introduction in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Speak to us about how we can get the ball rolling in your state too.
Dear ProtectSeniors.Org Member and fellow retiree,
We want to thank you for your loyal support, as we continue the fight we began 10 years ago on your behalf. How can we put a price tag on that support, or know where we’d be without it?
Our goal since we began has been to lead the fight in state capitals, in the halls of Congress and at the federal regulatory level to help protect and maintain the retirement benefits you earned throughout your careers.
Ten years ago, we saw the threat looming and we jumped into action. Today, it is not surprising to hear on a weekly basis of fellow retirees’ pensions being reduced, lost, or cut off from the federal protections through spin offs and de-risking.
In the last 10 years, there has been an accelerating movement in corporate America to erode, eviscerate and undermine retirement benefits to increase profits on the backs of retirees. When we worked, we were told we were earning pensions and benefits as part of our compensation. In fact, most of us received annual notifications of what benefits we would get in retirement, and their imbedded value. They were safe and protected…or so we believed.
But then a rule quietly inserted into employee benefit plans – The Reservation of Rights clause – authorized companies to “amend, change or discontinue” benefits being earned by employees. Since then, it has become evident that retiree benefits are disappearing.
Do you believe it is fair for corporations to have the authority to make last minute changes to our pensions and healthcare that were earned over the last 40 years? It is as if the IRS raised taxes retroactively going back 20 years and reached into your pocket to claw back money you’ve rightfully earned! Do you think citizens would accept that quietly?
Now in our tenth year, ProtectSeniors.Org needs your support more than ever. We are working harder and doing more to protect our pensions and healthcare by drafting and passing state and federal legislation designed to roll back these efforts.
Without actively fighting the sustained campaign to cut and destroy retiree benefits, you lose what you have earned. We are professional volunteers (yes, the leaders of ProtectSeniors.Org are unpaid) and we have an extraordinary team of legal and lobbying experts fighting our fight. We are all dedicated to what is right.
More than anything else, we need your support to continue. BECOME A MEMBER TODAY AND JOIN OUR FIGHT!! You will be doing your part to make sure your benefits are protected.
Thank you. We appreciate that you took the time to read our appeal for help. Please respond positively. We cannot do it without you and your friends
Secretary & Treasurer
Will the outcome of Pundt v. Verizon affect your pension?
The U.S. Supreme Court handed retirees a victory in late May when it vacated a lower court decision involving the case of 41,000 Verizon retirees whose pensions had been “de-risked” and sold off as insurance annuities. In the case, Pundt v. Verizon, the nation’s highest court ordered the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to re-evaluate its decision in light of its recent ruling in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins.
This monumental case has the potential to impact millions of older Americans, and creates more momentum for federal and state-level legislation to protect pensioners whose assets have been or will be de-risked. ProtectSeniors.Org has been hard at work in the halls of Congress and in multiple state capitals advocating for legislation to protect retiree assets and benefits.
ProtectSeniors president Jim Casey said, “The Supreme Court ruling clarifies and emphasizes the enormous national importance of this issue. This case also highlights the need for legislative and regulatory protections for retirees from pension de-risking throughout the nation.”
Pension de-risking is a fast-growing trend in this country. Along with our sister organization, the Association of BellTel Retirees, we have been fighting against pension de-risking in the courts, in the federal executive branch and in various state capitals.
Connecticut has already passed legislation proposed by ProtectSeniors.Org giving retirees creditor protections when their pensions are de-risked and we are now lobbying for even more protections. We have also initiated similar legislation in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
The Washington, D.C. based national Pension Rights Center has come down on our side, filing an amicus brief in support of the Verizon pensioners in the Pundt case. What’s more, last summer and again in April 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed serious concern about threats to the U.S. and global economy from pension de-risking activities.
The U.S. Treasury also recently expressed its concerns about the too-big–to-fail insurers after a federal judge ruled that MetLife, with more than $877 billion in total assets, is not too big to fail. The U.S. Treasury disagrees and is appealing that decision.
Every retiree needs to heed these warnings! The next de-risked pension could be yours. Don’t let your hard earned pension and benefits be sold out. Join in the fight by joining ProtectSeniors.Org today.