Your State Pension Is Not Fully Protected Under Law

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsiedle/2021/09/08/your-state-pension-is-not-fully-protected-under-law/

Excerpt:

State and local government pensions assure workers and retirees that they enjoy the same protections as the comprehensive federal law, ERISA provides to corporate participants. That’s simply not true. Don’t count on state law to protect your retirement security.

It has been said that the Law is a blunt instrument, incapable of dealing with all shades and circumstances, with little or no regard for individual situations.

…..

Even where the most comprehensive legal and regulatory framework exists and answers are crystal-clear, your pension is at risk because enforcement or policing of the law is lacking. I have taught U.S. Department of Labor pension investigators. As trained and committed as they are, they’re hopelessly out-gunned by the investment industry. Wall Street runs circles around regulators charged with enforcing pension laws.

However, the vast majority of pensions are not subject to any comprehensive law.   

For example, as hard as it is to believe, explain or justify, the approximately $4 trillion in America’s government pensions is not protected by any comprehensive federal or state law.

Author(s): Edward Siedle

Publication Date: 8 September 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

‘I’ll be robbed twice in one lifetime’: Retirees fearing financial disaster wait for pension rescue

Link: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ill-be-robbed-twice-in-one-lifetime-retirees-fearing-financial-disaster-wait-for-pension-rescue-11630018883

Graphic:

Excerpt:

A law passed in Congress earlier this year promised to reverse some of that damage by offering taxpayer-funded financial assistance to certain troubled pension plans like Podesta-Smallen’s, allowing them to restore benefits to retirees who suffered cuts. But the implementation of the rescue plan has been met with a barrage of criticism from plan trustees, participants and members of Congress who say it’s too tight-fisted with the financial assistance and could leave some plans in a worse financial position than they are in now.

….

When the American Rescue Plan was signed into law in March, many of these struggling plans and retirees with sharply reduced benefits thought their troubles were over. The law is expected to provide about $94 billion to eligible multiemployer plans through a financial assistance program designed to stabilize the plans for decades to come and reinstate previously reduced benefits.  

The sense of relief was short-lived, plan trustees and participants say. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency charged with protecting the retirement incomes of participants in private-sector defined-benefit pension plans, in early July released regulations detailing the formula for calculating the financial assistance for troubled plans.

In interviews and more than 100 comment letters to the PBGC, plan trustees, consultants, participants and lawmakers say that the rule’s stringent approach to calculating financial assistance means that many plans receiving the assistance won’t make it through the next 30 years as Congress intended, and some won’t even get enough money to cover the benefits they must restore as a condition of getting the cash.

Author(s): Eleanor Laise

Publication Date: 30 August 2021

Publication Site: Marketwatch

PBGC Issues Interim Final Rule on Multiemployer Bailout Plan

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/pbgc-issues-interim-final-rule-on-multiemployer-bailout-plan/

Excerpt:

There are four types of multiemployer plans that are eligible to apply for SFA under the PBGC’s regulation:

A plan in critical and declining status as defined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in any plan year beginning in 2020, 2021, or 2022.

A plan that had enacted a suspension of benefits approved under ERISA as of March 11, 2021.

A plan certified to be in critical status as defined by ERISA that has a modified funded percentage of less than 40%, and a ratio of active to inactive participants of less than 2:3, in any plan year beginning in 2020, 2021, or 2022.

A plan that became insolvent for purposes of section 418E of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) after Dec. 16, 2014, when the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) became law, has remained insolvent, and has not terminated under ERISA as of March 11, 2021.

PBGC has prioritized seven groups of plans that qualify for the aid, ranked by the most impacted plans and participants first. The highest priority is given to applications of plans that are projected to become insolvent under ERISA by March 11, 2022, so that they will not have to reduce participant benefits, and to plans that are already insolvent, to help them reinstate benefits, provide makeup payments to participants and beneficiaries, and restore previously suspended benefits.

Author(s): Christine Giordano

Publication Date: 14 July 2021

Publication Site: ai-CIO

PBGC Multiemployer Pension Bailout – The Weeds

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Excerpt:

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) on July 9, 2021 announced an interim final rule implementing a new Special Financial Assistance (SFA) Program for financially troubled multiemployer defined benefit pension plans.

What struck me:

…..

It is expected that over 100 plans that would have otherwise become insolvent during the next 15 years will instead forestall insolvency as a direct result of receiving SFA. Section 9704 of ARP amends section 4005 of ERISA to establish an eighth fund for SFA from which PBGC will provide SFA to multiemployer plans under the program created by the addition of section 4262 of ERISA. The eighth fund will be credited with amounts from time to time as the Secretary of the Treasury, in conjunction with the Director of PBGC, determines appropriate, from the general fund of the Treasury Department. Transfers from the general fund to the eighth fund cannot occur after September 30, 2030. (page 6)

Unlike the financial assistance provided under section 4261 of ERISA, which is in the form of a loan and provided in periodic payments, a plan receiving SFA under section 4262 has no obligation to repay SFA, and PBGC must pay SFA in the form of a single, lump sum payment. (page 7)

Author(s): John Bury

Publication Date: 10 July 2021

Publication Site: burypensions

PBGC to Provide Special Financial Assistance to Troubled Multiemployer Plans

Link: https://www.pbgc.gov/news/press/releases/pr21-05

Released rule pdf: https://www.pbgc.gov/sites/default/files/sfa/4262-ifr-final-posted.pdf

Excerpt:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) today announced an interim final rule implementing a new Special Financial Assistance (SFA) Program for financially troubled multiemployer defined benefit pension plans.  

“The American Rescue Plan provides funding to severely underfunded pension plans that will ensure that over three million of America’s workers, retirees, and their families receive the pension benefits they earned through many years of hard work,” said PBGC Director Gordon Hartogensis. “These benefits are critical to the economic security of so many retirees and their families.” 

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2) — a historic law passed by Congress and signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021 — contains provisions to provide an estimated $94 billion in assistance to eligible plans that are severely underfunded. Additionally, it assists plans by providing funds to reinstate previously suspended benefits. ARP also addresses the solvency of PBGC’s Multiemployer Insurance Program, which was projected to become insolvent in 2026.  

The interim final rule sets forth what information a plan is required to file to demonstrate eligibility for SFA and the formula to determine the amount of SFA that PBGC will pay to an eligible plan. ARP authorizes PBGC to prioritize SFA applications of plans in specified groups, and the interim final rule identifies the priority order in which such plans are permitted to apply. The interim final rule also outlines a processing system, which will accommodate the filing and review of many applications in a limited amount of time. In addition, it specifies permissible investments for SFA funds and establishes certain restrictions and conditions on plans that receive SFA. 

The interim final rule is posted on PBGC’s website today, July 9, 2021. The rule is also on public inspection today at FederalRegister.gov and is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on July 12, 2021. PBGC has included a 30-day public comment period in this rulemaking from the date of publication in the Federal Register. All interested parties may submit their comments, suggestions, and views on the rule’s provisions here: reg.comments@pbgc.gov or https://www.regulations.gov

Additional information, including Frequently Asked Questions, is available at PBGC.gov/arp

Author(s): PBGC press release

Publication Date: 9 July 2021

Publication Site: PBGC

PBGC Rules on Multiemployer Pension Bailout

Excerpt:

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) today announced an interim final rule implementing a new Special Financial Assistance (SFA) Program for financially troubled multiemployer defined benefit pension plans.

Pertinent excerpts coming over the weekend but, for now, it looks like the bailout number moved from $86 billion to $94 billion per the PBGC press release:

Author(s): John Bury

Publication Date: 9 July 2021

Publication Site: burypensions

Update On The Multiemployer Pension Plan Bailout: New Regulations Finally Unveiled

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2021/07/11/update-on-the-multiemployer-pension-plan-bailout-new-regulations-finally-unveiled/?sh=29d66f215bb2

Excerpt:

The PBGC’s decisions here are not what organizations such as the NCCMP would have liked, although, clearly, it is the PBGC’s job to interpret the law, not to try to fix a poorly-written law.

At the same time, no multiemployer pension plan is worse off with this legislation than without it, even if it isn’t as generous as they would have liked. And nothing prohibits those plans from boosting contributions and using additional contributions to fund future accruals — which would mean that pension plans which express their contributions as fixed dollar amounts, rather than a percentage of pay, will be better positioned to provide for existing employees as well as retirees. What’s more, the calculation of future contributions is based on a one-time open group projection, without being revised from year to year, so that, in principle, if more workers join a plan, the plan will be better off. (Of course, if the projection is too optimistic about the number of future workers, the opposite will be true.)

But, of course, this is $86 billion that could have been spent for other needs, or not spent at all. And, however much advocates profess that they still hope for a more comprehensive revision of funding rules for multiemployer pensions, the poorly-conceived nature of this bailout makes it less, rather than more, likely that both sides of the aisle will come together to repair multiemployer pensions and prevent future bailouts.

Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer

Publication Date: 11 July 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Multiemployer Pensions: Will the Recent Bailout Destroy Pensions (in the Long Run)?

Link: https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/multiemployer-pensions-will-the-recent

Graphic:

Excerpt:

I think it unlikely that Congress, at least this Congress, will pass any MEP reforms. The bill allowing for MEP benefit cuts passed under Obama, during his second term – with a Republican House and a Democratic Senate.

There may eventually be MEP reforms, but with a big cash injection into Central States Teamsters, the reckoning day has been pushed off.

The real crisis was Central States Teamsters going under. It would have taken down the PBGC. The puny plans like Warehouse Employees Union Local No. 730 Pension Trust (total liability amount: $474,757,777) are drops in the bucket compared with Central States (total liability amount: $56,790,308,499).

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 5 April 2021

Publication Site: STUMP at substack

Seriously Underfunded Multiemployer Defined Benefit Pension Plans—Relief Finally Arrives

Link: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/seriously-underfunded-multiemployer-defined-benefit-pension-plans-relief-finally

Excerpt:

The Pension Relief Act provides that for the first two years after enactment, applications for special financial assistance may be filed only by the following:

plans that are insolvent or likely to become insolvent within five years of the date of enactment of the Pension Relief Act;

plans that have a present value financial assistance that exceeds $1 billion if special financial assistance is not provided;

plans that received approval under MPRA to suspend benefits; or

plans as otherwise determined by the PBGC.

Author(s): Grace H. Ristuccia, Thomas Vasiljevich

Publication Date: 16 March 2021

Publication Site: National Law Review

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (5) 9705

Excerpt:

Going through the text of the stimulus bill, section 9705 turns to funding relief for Single Employer plans by returning to the 15 year amortization schedule for minimum funding purposes for 2022 (with optional election for 2019, 2020, and 2021) as if draconian PBGC premiums were not enough in themselves to discourage underfunding.

Author(s): John Bury

Publication Date: 16 March 2021

Publication Site: Burypensions

Will American Rescue Plan Act Multiemployer Pension Provisions Bring Relief to Employers?

Link: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/will-american-rescue-plan-act-multiemployer-pension-provisions-bring-relief-to

Excerpt:

Further, under EPPRA, the interest rate used to calculate withdrawal liability for plans receiving assistance is limited. The interest rate used to calculate withdrawal liability would be capped, in part, by subsections of ERISA, plus 2%, which would currently be approximately 5%. Of course, the lower the interest rate used by a plan for this purpose, the higher the resulting employer withdrawal liability.

Importantly, less than 15% of the 1,400 multiemployer pension plans will receive financial assistance. Accordingly, the bulk of employer obligations to multiemployer plans, even those that are significantly underfunded, will be unaffected by EPPRA. With respect to employers who contribute to plans that receive EPPRA assistance, PBGC is expected to issue guidance that would limit (in whole or in part) the benefit of such assistance to employers.

The impact of EPPRA’s special financial assistance on contributing employers will largely depend on PBGC regulations and guidance. Employers who are currently confronted with an immediate decision regarding withdrawal from a multiemployer pension plan (for example, employers in the middle of labor negotiations) likely will need to exercise patience pending the issuance of PBGC guidance.

Author(s): Paul A. Friedman, Robert R. Perry, David M. Pixley

Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: National Law Review

What Is The Pension Provision In The Stimulus Package?: An Explainer

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/teresaghilarducci/2021/03/15/what-is-the-pension-provision-in-the-stimulus-package-an-explainer/?sh=411b24f957d1

Excerpt:

The multiemployer pension crisis was not caused by poor decisions by the pension funds. Factors out of their control: recessions, government decisions, industry deregulation (trucking for example) and quirks in the pension regulation law, ERISA are responsible. Some, including the New York Times blame the pension actuaries for high rates of return assumptions, but for most of their existence, the plans were much more conservatively run than high-flying single corporate plans.

Because of deregulation, bankruptcies of major carriers, and the 8-year policy of the George W. Bush administration to avoid contracting with union carriers, the Central States pension fund did not have enough money to pay Jack. The 2007 financial crash, caused by inadequate government regulation, and the Pandemic recession, further accelerated the expenses in Jack’s pension fund, one of the largest multiemployer plans.

Government regulation also did not move fast enough. Unlike single employer plans where ERISA encourages the PBGC to step in and take over the plans before the sponsors end up in bankruptcy there is no pre-crises help from the government agency, the PBGC, for multiemployer plans. Not acting quickly the aid needed soared. If the aid came 12 years ago the expense would have been much smaller about $10 billion.

Author(s): Teresa Ghilarducci

Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Forbes