Last year, Congress passed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, which gives unprecedented power to the trustees of certain severely underfunded multiemployer pension plans (plans in “critical and declining” status) to cut retirees’ pension benefits. Earlier this year, the Treasury Department asked for public comments on how to implement the new law – and more than 1,500 of you told them what you thought.
The Treasury Department has taken your comments into consideration and released proposed and temporary regulations to implement the MPRA pension cut provisions. The Department has again asked for public comments. This gives you another opportunity to make sure that the Treasury Department knows how you think it should implement the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.
Comments to the Treasury Department are due next Tuesday, August 18th. Submit your comments here.
If you would like to mail in your comments, make sure to follow the instructions outlined by the Treasury Department. Be sure to say that your comments are related to the cut-back provisions of MPRA (80 FR 35272).
Keep in mind that the Treasury Department cannot change the law – only Congress can do that. But the Treasury Department can use its authority to interpret the law to help protect retirees and spouses.
Use your own words to tell the Department how unfair you think the process was in passing the law. You can express your concern that the cutback provisions were snuck into a government spending bill that had to pass to prevent the government from shutting down. There were no hearings and your voice was never heard.
When writing your comments, make sure the Treasury Department knows who you are and how you would be affected by any cuts. Tell them your name, age, where you live, the number of years you worked, and your job. Tell them how the cuts will affect you. If your pension is cut, will you lose your house? Will you be unable to pay for your medical bills? Will your family members be affected? Be as specific as possible.
Here are some points you may want to make in comments you submit to the Treasury Department.
Tell the officials at Treasury to require that plan trustees protect you by:
Making all other possible cuts before cutting retiree benefits. Ask the Treasury Department to require that your plan’s trustees reduce other expenses before they consider any reduction in retiree benefits. These could include reducing the salaries of plan officials and trustees and the reduction of the fees paid to investment management firms, lawyers, actuaries, and other consultants.
Requiring that if cuts are made that they be fair and across-the-board. If retiree benefits are cut, all participants, both active workers and retirees, should have their pensions cut by the same percentage. Since most widows and widowers receive small benefits, we think that survivors’ benefits should not be cut. It is unthinkable that Congress has given trustees almost absolute power to cut the pensions of the most vulnerable – retirees and their survivors – first. This completely undermines the spirit of the federal private pension law, ERISA.
Developing fair voting procedures.
Ensuring that ballots are delivered fairly: Ask the Treasury Department to require plans to make every effort to ensure that retirees receive ballots. Say that to ensure proper delivery of ballots, the ballots must be delivered via certified first class mail, not by e-mail, to retirees and beneficiaries
Ensuring that ballots have been received and cast: In your comments you can say that you think that in order for a vote to be valid there must be proof that a majority of all active workers, retirees, deferred vested participants, and beneficiaries have received a ballot, and if possible, cast a ballot.
Ensure that retirees participate in selecting the Retiree Representative. You can ask the Treasury Department to make sure that the person selected as the Retiree Representative represents only the interests of retirees, with no actual or potential conflicts of interest.
For those of you who are members of the Central States Teamsters Pension Fund who have experience with Susan Mauren, you can add your comments here: Tell them whether Susan Mauren has been responsive to your concerns. Has she answered your letters? Have you or others asked her to conduct a forensic audit to determine if there has been mismanagement of the fund? To your knowledge, has she thoroughly analyzed the assumptions the plan is using to project insolvency if cuts are not made? Do you want the Retiree Representative to actively ensure that the vote is conducted fairly? If so, add these comments. Has she keep you informed of what she is doing? Do you feel her personal situation is typical of that of most retirees?
Although the comments the Treasury Department is seeking now are focused only on its responsibilities to implement last year’s law. You should know that in the future the Department and other government agencies could support legislation, such as the Keep Our Pension Promises Act of 2015, to repeal the benefit cut provisions.
Executive Vice President and Policy Director