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Who Really Loses When a Multiemployer Pension Plan Fails?
"Employers are not in the driver's seat when it comes to multiemployer pension plans. The trustees are charged with making very unpopular and difficult decisions ... Employees, retirees, and the general public will likely blame the employer for these broken promises.... It is possible to make these multiemployer pension plan participants whole. But, the employer faces a gauntlet of regulations, procedures, and potential confusion on the part of the plan participants." (Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP)
[Discussion] How Many EINs for a Multiemployer Plan? And Who Files?
"Is there a need to have separate EINs for the fund office of a multiemployer plan and for the plan itself? In the case of a corporation, for example, you would have separate EINs for the corporation and for its plan. I'm wondering whether the same thing is needed for a multiemployer plan -- for example, so that a tax levy that should apply to assets of the fund office (e.g., for failure to deposit withholding taxes on their employees' wages) would not be applied to plan assets. Also, who files for the EIN? The instructions talk about having the 'responsible party' do so. But a multiemployer fund has co-chairs (one union, one management). Can either of them do it?" (BenefitsLink Message Boards)
PBGC Reverses Expansion of Early Warning Factors
"Plan sponsors and others had criticized the new additions to the list as too vague. There were also concerns that these factors could result in more forcefully sought financial concessions from plan sponsors that could ill afford them. The PBGC initially claimed that it had always used similar criteria in its screening process." (Willis Towers Watson)
The Multiemployer Plan Financial Crisis: Effect on Single Employer Plans
"[It] seems likely that any ultimate solution (if there is one) will involve some sort of federal bailout. That bailout could possibly involve single employer plans in some way. For instance, Senator Sanders's KOPPA proposal would fund multiemployer plan benefits by: [1] transferring assets from the PBGC single employer program; and [2] capping contributions to defined contribution plans, to generate tax revenues to pay for direct federal Treasury funding." (October Three Consulting)
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Extension of Comment Period for Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits: United Furniture Workers Pension Fund A
"On April 19, 2017, the Department of the Treasury published a notice of availability and request for comments regarding an application to reduce benefits under the United Furniture Workers Pension Fund A (UFW Pension Fund) in accordance with [MPRA].... The comment period for the notice published April 19, 2017 (82 FR 18536), is extended. Comments must be received on or before June 20, 2017." (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Notice of Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits: New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund
"The Board of Trustees of the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund, a multiemployer pension plan, has submitted an application to reduce benefits under the plan in accordance with [MPRA]. The purpose of this notice is to announce that the application ... has been published on the Treasury website , and to request public comments on the application from interested parties, including participants and beneficiaries, employee organizations, and contributing employers of the [fund]." (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
Teamsters to Propose Fix for Pensions, But Will It Work?
"The proposal calls for Congress to create a nonprofit private-sector corporation tasked primarily with making loans to poorly funded plans or to employers that participate in such plans. Money for the loans would come from bond purchases by investors. Payments on the bonds would be guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury." (Bloomberg BNA)
WestRock Challenge to Pension Change Dies in 11th Circuit
"Can an employer use [ERISA] to challenge changes made to an underfunded multiemployer pension fund's rehabilitation plan? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held May 16 that no viable ERISA claim could proceed.... According to the Eleventh Circuit, the disputed rehabilitation plan forced employers to make contributions to address the plan's funding deficiency when they left the plan. This payment was separate from, and in addition to, any withdrawal liability payments the employer was statutorily required to pay, the Eleventh Circuit concluded." [ WestRock RKT Co. v. Pace Industry Union-Mgmt. Pension Fund , No. 16-16443 (11th Cir. May 16, 2017) (Bloomberg BNA)
Canadian Court Rejects Multiemployer Plan's ERISA Controlled-Group Liability Claims (PDF)
"The court held that ERISA cannot be applied to hold Canadian entities liable for multiemployer withdrawal liability simply because those entities are owned by a common parent.... The decision marks one of the few instances to date that a court has analyzed ERISA's reach across the U.S. border, and may make it more difficult for multiemployer plans and the PBGC to seek payment from foreign entities of liabilities associated with underfunded multiemployer and single employer plans." [ Walter Energy Canada Holdings, Inc. (Re) , 2017 BCSC 709, May 1, 2017] (Groom Law Group)
Multiemployer Pension Plans: Critical Plans Treading Water, Waiting to Drown
"So far: five applications denied, one accepted.... [E]ach denial comes with a letter. [Here is] a rundown.... [The multiemployer pension plan] program is in fairly bad condition at the PBGC, and is currently projected to have a 50/50 chance of running out of cash by 2025. The MPRA is there not merely to try to get some of the [multiemployer pension plans] to be sustaining, but so that the PBGC itself doesn't run out of money. The Treasury isn't interested in allowing for benefit cuts when the plans are just going to land on the PBGC anyway." (STUMP)
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Denial of Automotive Industries Pension Fund Application to Reduce Benefits (PDF)
"Treasury has concluded that several of the key actuarial assumptions used for the cash flow projections in the Application are not reasonable. Specifically, the mortality rate assumption, the assumption regarding the rate at which married participants will elect a joint and survivor benefit, and the assumption regarding the probability of benefit commencement of terminated vested participants are not reasonable under the standards in the regulations. Because the Application uses projections that rely on assumptions that are not reasonable, it fails to demonstrate that the proposed suspension is reasonably estimated to achieve, but not materially exceed, the level that is necessary to avoid insolvency. Accordingly, the proposed suspension does not meet the statutory requirements for approval[.]" (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
Retiree-Employee Ratios Are Dooming the Multiemployer Pension
"Even as Congress has taken steps to solve the multiemployer pension problem, the plans continue to face a death spiral. In fiscal year 2016, 10 multiemployer plans went insolvent and requested financial assistance from the PBGC. The federal agency is now giving financial assistance to a record-high 71 multiemployer plans." (Bloomberg BNA)
Multiemployer Pension Funding Study, Spring 2017
"This study reports on the estimated funded status of all U.S. multiemployer plans as of December 31, 2016, and shows the change in funding levels from June 30, 2016. The aggregate funded percentage for multiemployer plans is estimated to be 77% as of December 31, 2016, compared with 76% as of June 30, 2016. The estimated 2016 calendar year investment return for our simplified portfolio was about 7.70%, which would produce a slight gain versus most plans' investment return assumptions." (Milliman)
CalSTRS Employer Contributions Are Doubling, But Is That Enough?
"The 2014 legislation freezes rates paid by school districts at 20.5 percent of pay, after they more than double to 19.1 percent by the end of this decade. But ... the state rate can continue to increase up to 0.5 percent of pay each year.... Actuaries said CalSTRS, only 64 percent funded last June, is still on track to reach 100 percent funding by 2046. Whether CalSTRS remains on the path to full funding ... will largely depend on whether the state pays enough under the new plan." (Calpensions)
[Opinion] The Keep Our Pension Promises Act of 2017
"KOPPA would create a Legacy Fund in the PBGC. Underfunded multiemployer pension plans would apply to receive money from the Legacy Fund to pay retirees the benefits they earned. When an application is accepted, the money provided by the Legacy Fund is combined with employer contributions and investment income and should be sufficient enough to enable plans in the even worst financial shape ... to cover benefit costs on a year-to-year basis.... The Legacy Fund created by KOPPA would be funded by partially repealing two tax breaks that only benefit wealthy individuals." (Pension Rights Center)
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Notice of Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits: Southwest Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Plan
"The Board of Trustees of the Southwest Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Plan (SWORCC Pension Plan) ... has submitted an application to reduce benefits under the plan in accordance with [MPRA].... [T]he application ... has been published on the Treasury website , and ... public comments [are requested] from interested parties, including participants and beneficiaries, employee organizations, and contributing employers of the SWORCC Pension Plan." (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
[Official Guidance] Text of PBGC Submission of Information Collection for OMB Review, Comment Request: Mergers and Transfers Between Multiemployer Plans
"Section 4231(a) and (b) of [ERISA] requires plans that are involved in a merger or transfer to give PBGC 120 days' notice of the transaction and provides that if PBGC determines that specified requirements are satisfied, the transaction will be deemed not to be in violation of ERISA section 406(a) or (b)(2) (dealing with prohibited transactions). PBGC's regulation on Mergers and Transfers Between Multiemployer Plans (29 CFR part 4231) sets forth the procedures for giving notice of a merger or transfer under section 4231 and for requesting a determination that a transaction complies with section 4231.... PBGC intends to request that OMB extend its approval for another three years." (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Notice of Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits: IAM Motor City Pension Fund
"The Board of Trustees of the International Association of Machinists Motor City Pension Fund (IAM Motor City Pension Fund) ... has submitted an application to reduce benefits under the plan in accordance with [MPRA].... [T]he application ... has been published on the Treasury website , and ... public comments [are requested] from interested parties, including participants and beneficiaries, employee organizations, and contributing employers[.]" (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Notice of Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits: Alaska Ironworkers Pension Trust
"The Board of Trustees of the Alaska Ironworkers Pension Trust ... has submitted an application to reduce benefits under the plan in accordance with [MPRA].... [T]he application ... has been published on the Treasury website , and to... public comments [are requested] from interested parties, including participants and beneficiaries, employee organizations, and contributing employers[.]" (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
Addressing the Unique Investment Challenges of Multiemployer Defined Benefit Plans
"Across asset classes, active management and the relentless pursuit of alpha are crucial to generating needed returns. Private investments could be the single biggest driver of asset return for many plans ... [I]ndividual investment strategies and the entire portfolio should be tailored to each plan's specific participant demographics, economic conditions, and risk tolerances. Use of these sophisticated strategies can introduce heightened illiquidity, volatility, and drawdown risks. Long-term success requires effective approaches to designing, executing, and monitoring these strategies, and diligently managing their risks." (Cambridge Associates)
Flurry of Pension Rescue Filings May Indicate Renewed Confidence
"Four more financially beleaguered multiemployer pension plans are ... seeking Treasury Department permission to cut benefits.... The filings show 'increased trustee and adviser confidence' that plan trustees now 'know what standards will be applied and that approval is possible,' Dominic DeMatties, a partner with Alston & Bird, [said] ... That's in the wake of the first approval of a request to cut benefits and as plans have digested final regulations issued a year ago[.]" (Bloomberg BNA)
The First Dinosaur Has Died: Multiemployer Plan Runs Out of Money, Other Insolvencies Loom
"The New York Teamsters Road Carriers Local 707 Pension Fund (the 'Local 707 Pension Fund') is dead, reportedly having run out of money in early March 2017.... The average monthly payment will be slashed by the PBGC to $570. This is a reduction of 56% for a population which is aging and unlikely to be able to engage in full-time employment.... [T]he Local 707 Pension Fund was one of several pension funds that sought relief under [MPRA] to be permitted to have its participants consider a reduction of core benefits. However, its application was rejected by the Department of Treasury." (Jackson Lewis P.C.)
Upstate Teamsters (Local 294) Gets Reprieve from Pension Cuts
"Earlier in April, the agency sent back the Upstate Teamster's blueprint to regain solvency. The agency offered several suggestions, including an updating of the fund's actuarial mortality tables. Federal officials also wanted the fund operators to make a more optimistic assumption about their annual rate of return, which was pegged at 6.75 percent for the next decade." (TimesUnion.com)
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Notice of Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits: Teamsters Local 805 Pension and Retirement Fund
"The Board of Trustees of the Teamsters Local 805 Pension and Retirement Fund (Local 805 Pension Fund), a multiemployer pension plan, has submitted an application to reduce benefits under the plan in accordance with the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014. The purpose of this notice is to announce that the application ... has been published on the Treasury website , and to request public comments on the application from interested parties, including participants and beneficiaries, employee organizations, and contributing employers of the Local 805 Pension Fund." (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
Ohio Carpenters' Multiemployer Pension Plan Applies for Benefit Cuts
"Trustees of the plan, which had $216.9 million in assets and $471.3 million in liabilities as of Jan. 1 for a funding ratio of 46%, submitted a plan under [MPRA] that calls for reducing, or suspending, benefits by an average of 17% for 90% of plan participants, including retirees.... People who retired before age 62 would see deeper cuts between 17% and 66%[.]" (Pensions & Investments)
Fifteenth Union Plan Files for Approval of Pension Reductions
"The Southwest Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Plan out of Austintown, OH just became the fifteenth multiemployer (union) plan to file for benefit cuts under MPRA in an attempt to avoid insolvency." (Burypensions)
[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Notice of Application to Reduce Benefits Filed by United Furniture Workers Pension Fund A
"The Board of Trustees of the United Furniture Workers Pension Fund A ... has submitted an application to Treasury to reduce benefits under the plan in accordance with [MPRA]. The purpose of this notice is to announce that the application ... has been published on the website of the Department of the Treasury, and to request public comments on the application from interested parties, including participants and beneficiaries, employee organizations, and contributing employers[.]" (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
[Official Guidance] Text of PBGC Approval of Special Withdrawal Liability Rules: Service Employees International Union Local 1 Cleveland Pension Plan
"[A]n employer that completely or partially withdraws from a defined benefit multiemployer pension plan becomes liable for a proportional share of the plan's unfunded vested benefits.... Congress nevertheless allowed for the possibility that, in certain industries, the fact that particular employers go out of business (or cease operations in a specific geographic region) might not result in permanent damage to the pension plan's contribution base.... Each request for approval of a plan amendment establishing special withdrawal liability rules must provide PBGC with detailed financial and actuarial data about the plan.... PBGC [has] received a request [from] ... a multiemployer pension plan covering the commercial building cleaning and security industries in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area." (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])
Two More Union Plans File Applications for Benefit Reduction
"Bringing the total to fourteen. Alaska Ironworkers Pension Plan of Anchorage, AK and Local 805 Pension Fund of New York, NY just popped up on the MPRA website ." (Burypensions)
Potential Pension Cuts for 5,200 Teamsters Delayed
"The New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund, which has about 34,000 participants statewide, had submitted a plan to the U.S. Treasury Department, seeking permission to impose the cuts.... Now the fund's board of trustees has withdrawn its application, putting off potential cuts until later this year." (Buffalo News)
Twelfth Union Plan Files for Benefit Reductions Under MPRA
"The [International Association] of Machinists Motor City Pension Fund out of Troy, MI ... became the twelfth multiemployer plan to file for benefit cuts under MPRA in an attempt to avoid insolvency." (Burypensions)
[Guidance Overview] Informal MPRA Tips from Treasury, PBGC and DOL, Courtesy of the American Academy of Actuaries (PDF)
"The Multiemployer Subcommittee of the American Academy of Actuaries (Subcommittee) met with members of the Department of Treasury, the [PBGC], and the [DOL] at the end of February 2017 and discussed applications by multiemployer pension plans in critical and declining status to suspend benefits or partition liabilities, as permitted under [MPRA].... [T]he Discussion Notes are a useful resource to summarize how these agencies saw the first 12 applications and what tips were offered to actuaries and plan sponsors at the meeting." (United Actuarial Services, Inc.)
Proposed Multiemployer Composite Plans: Background and Analysis (PDF)
19 pages. "The composite plan proposal is the third element of a proposal ... to reform multiemployer DB pension plans. The first two elements were adopted as the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.... For employers, composite plans would offer several advantages over DB plans.... Retired participants in composite plans would receive monthly benefit payments. However, the benefit amounts could increase or decrease, depending on the investment experience of the plan." [Report R44722, Mar. 27, 2017] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
[Guidance Overview] MPRA Benefit Suspension Applications: Notes from Meeting of Actuaries and Treasury, PBGC and DOL (PDF)
"The application for benefits suspensions under MPRA represent a significant time and expense for all parties involved. Thus, it is in the best interest of plan sponsors, actuaries, Treasury, and PBGC that there is a high success rate with respect to future MPRA applications. The discussion in this exchange was intended to provide plan sponsors and actuaries with insights about the MPRA application review process with a goal to help plan sponsors make decisions about applying and to increase the acceptance rate for those who do apply." [Editor's note: the meeting was held on Feb. 22, 2017.] (Multiemployer Plans Subcommittee, American Academy of Actuaries)
Western States Office & Professional Employees Pension Fund Seeks Cuts
"The fund's board has proposed a 29% decrease for all participants and beneficiaries, but no reduction below 110% of the PBGC guaranteed benefit for each affected participant. Under the plan, disability pensions are not reduced, and participants who are age 80 or older on Dec. 31, 2017, have no reduction.... The Western States Office & Professional Employees Pension Fund was first certified to be in critical status with the Treasury Department in 2009, and is projected to become insolvent in 2035 if no changes are made." (Chief Investment Officer [CIO])
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Department Notice of Multiemployer Pension Plan Application to Reduce Benefits: Western States Office and Professional Employees Pension Fund
"The Board of Trustees of the Western States Office and Professional Employees Pension Fund (WSOPE Pension Fund) ... has submitted an application to Treasury to reduce benefits under the plan in accordance with [MPRA].... The purpose of this notice is to announce that the application submitted by the Board of Trustees of the WSOPE Pension Fund has been published ... and to request public comments on the application from interested parties, including participants and beneficiaries, employee organizations, and contributing employers of the WSOPE Pension Fund." (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
Text of Application for Benefit Suspensions: Western States Office and Professional Employees Pension Fund
"The Western States Office and Professional Employees Pension Fund application proposing benefit suspensions can be found [on the linked page]. The application is organized by the items specified in Revenue Procedure 2016-27." (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
Treasury Official Leaves Post Overseeing Multiemployer Pension Rescues
"Kenneth R. Feinberg stepped down as the Treasury Department's special master overseeing the implementation of a controversial law permitting pension cuts. Feinberg resigned from his role the week of Feb. 27 because his work was 'largely complete and there was no reason' to 'remain, having helped establish the precedents for reviewing private multiemployer pension plans pursuant to [MPRA]'[.]" (Bloomberg BNA)
Proposed Pension Accountability Act Would Protect Retirees in Troubled Multiemployer Pension Plans
"[F]or struggling pension plans seeking cuts, [the Act] will make the participant vote binding in all situations. This will give the workers and retirees a seat at the table to influence the solvency reforms. Their majority vote will be required for any pension cuts to occur.... [The Act] will make this vote fair by counting only the ballots that are returned. Unreturned ballots will no longer be counted as a 'yes' vote." (Senator Rob Portman [R-OH])
PBGC Provides Financial Assistance to Road Carriers Local 707 Pension Fund
"The full benefit promised to current retirees and beneficiaries in the 707 Fund averages $1,313 per month, but the average guaranteed benefit is $570. Forty-two percent of the 707 Fund retirees and beneficiaries have benefit reductions of more than half, compared to the amount of their promised benefits. Only 7 percent of current retirees and beneficiaries will receive their full plan-promised benefit amount." (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])
[Opinion] America's Crumbling Pension Future?
"[T]he biggest problem with all these multiemployer pension plans is they never had proper governance, were raked on fees by Wall Street, and were poorly managed for decades.... And now that the chickens have come home to roost ... retirees seeing their pension benefits being slashed by half or more are rightfully asking for the government to help them." (Pension Pulse)
When Multiemployer Pensions Fail: Teamsters Local 707
"The Teamsters Local 707 pension has gone bust, and it's been taken over by the 'insurer' of last resort: the PBGC.... [In] 1999, Local 707 was 100% funded. The tech bubble -- followed by 9/11 -- ruined that. The trust lost 30% of its assets.... When the 2008 crash came, Yellow Roadway Carrier couldn't make its payments.... Yellow Roadway was allowed to skip its pension contributions for 18 months. When the company started paying again, it was at 25% of the previous rate. The fund began to topple, with roughly 700 workers paying into a fund supporting more than 4,000 retirees. Local 707's fund pays out $48 million a year -- and takes in $7.5 million in contributions[.]" (STUMP)
American Academy of Actuaries Response to PBGC Request for Information on Alternative Two-Pool Withdrawal Liability Methods (PDF)
10 pages. "The primary risk to participants is that the two-pool arrangement will result in the plan being less well-funded over time than it would have been if some other course of action had been followed within a typical arrangement.... The risks to new pool employers are primarily the result of possible uncertainty regarding certain aspects of the two-pool arrangements, particularly as it relates to the extent to which the pools receive separate treatment and in regard to the extent to which a two-pool arrangement can include favorable provisions that apply in the event of a future mass withdrawal." (Multiemployer Pension Plans Subcommittee, American Academy of Actuaries)
[Opinion] U.S. Chamber of Commerce Comment Letter to PBGC on Alternative Methods for Computing Withdrawal Liability
"The Chamber believes that widespread implementation of the two-pool alternative withdrawal liability arrangements could be helpful in stabilizing the multiemployer pension system.... [It] would be helpful to highlight areas where requests have been deficient or highlighting information that is necessary for approval.... Moving away from a prescriptive list [of information required from plan sponsors] would minimize the burden of employers and plans having to provide information that is not necessary for the PBGC's determination." (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
Multiemployer Retirement Plan Landscape: A Ten-Year Look (2005-2014)
Infographic summary of the report. "The [full] report covers both defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) plans using data from Form 5500 Annual Reports filed with the [DOL], with 2014 being the most recent information currently available. The report analyzes key trends in demographics, cash flows, and investments for defined benefit and defined contribution plans over the ten-year period from 2005 through 2014, and will help trustees, consultants and policy makers gain a better understanding of these plans and their environment." (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans [IFEBP])
Multiemployer Pension Plans: Section 1405 Limitation on Withdrawal Liability
"[The arbitrator found] that when a pension fund fails to respond to an employer's request for review letter ... the fund is not entitled to a presumption of correctness ... [T]he arbitrator rejected the fund's argument that to qualify for the 'sale of assets' provision under subsection (a), all the assets had to be sold to a 'single unrelated party.' ... [T]he arbitrator rejected the fund's argument that the 'motivation' or reasons for the sale of assets are relevant to the issue of whether the asset sale caused or triggered the withdrawal." (Ford & Harrison LLP)
PBGC Fails in Attempt to Hold Asset Buyer Liable for Seller's Underfunded Single Employer Pension Plan Termination Liabilities
"[S]everal federal courts of appeal have held that a buyer of assets may be held liable as a successor under federal common law for unpaid ERISA multiemployer plan withdrawal liability or contributions if the buyer had notice of the liability and continued the business of seller with substantial continuity of operations. The PBGC ... asked the court to apply the same doctrine in the termination liability context. Finding that ERISA already imposed a specific statutory scheme for the collection of plan termination liabilities under ERISA, the district court declined to apply federal common law in this case." [ PBGC v. Findlay Industries, Inc. , No. 15-1421 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 29, 2016)] (Paul Hastings LLP)
Iron Workers Local 17 Pension Fund Participants Vote to Cut Benefits
"The Trustees are currently scrambling to implement the reductions with the participants' February 1 pension checks. Based on the Fund's application, these cuts generally involve reducing accrued benefits and eliminating early retirement subsidies and extra benefit credits indefinitely. The Trustees believe that these reductions are critical to improving the Fund's solvency over the long term. And now, it appears that the Treasury Department and participants agree." (Morgan Lewis)
[Official Guidance] Text of Treasury Letter Authorizing Suspension of Benefits by Iron Workers Local 17 Pension Fund (PDF)
"Of the 936 votes cast, 616 voted in favor of the benefit suspension, and 320 voted against the benefit suspension.... [T]he Plan sponsor must make an annual determination that all reasonable measures to avoid insolvency have been and continue to be taken, and that the Plan is projected to become insolvent unless the suspension continues.... If the Plan fails to satisfy the annual plan sponsor determination requirement for a plan year ... the suspension of benefits will cease to be in effect beginning as of the first day of the next plan year." (U.S. Department of the Treasury)
[Opinion] Iron Workers Local 17 Becomes First Plan to Cut Retiree Pensions
" 'These cuts are particularly unfair and cruel to 336 of the Fund's retirees who labored for decades constructing Cleveland's skyscrapers,' said Karen Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center. 'It is these retirees who will be affected the most -- and will see their pensions cut by 30 to 60 percent.' The plan's participants voted by a 2-to-1 margin in favor of the cuts. This is not surprising since four-fifths of the plan's participants stand to lose little or nothing as a result of the cuts. More than half of the Fund's 1,938 participants did not vote." (Pension Rights Center)
January 20, 2017 May Be an Historic Day for Pension Plans
"As the American public focuses on January 20, 2017 as the beginning of the Trump administration, the day may also have historical significance for employee benefits law as the date on which a reduction in core pension benefits was permitted.... By January 20th, all participants in the Iron Workers Local 17 Pension Fund are required to have cast their ballots whether or not to reduce core benefits under [MPRA].... [T]he rescue proposal will be approved unless specifically rejected by a majority of plan participants.... Based upon the demographics of the fund it is predicted that the reductions in core benefits will be approved." (Jackson Lewis, vis Lexology)
[Guidance Overview] 2017 Key Administrative Dates and Deadlines for Calendar-Year Multiemployer Defined Benefit Plans (PDF)
3-page chart of key administrative dates and deadlines during 2017 for multiemployer defined benefit retirement plans subject to ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, including Form 5500, Zone Certification, Notice of Endangered or Critical Status, Zone Surcharge, and more. (Milliman)
Stability in Percentage of Multiemployer Plans in the Green Zone (PDF)
"[A] majority of multiemployer plans -- 64 percent -- are in the green zone.... The average Pension Protection Act of 2006 funded percentage has also remained stable: 86 percent for zone certifications filed in the 12-month period ending on September 30, 2016 compared to 87 percent for the 12-month period ending on September 30, 2015. The percentage of plans in the red zone is 25 percent, with 10 percent of all plans certified as 'critical and declining.' ... These results are similar to the prior 12-month period." (Segal Consulting)
[Guidance Overview] Missing Participants: Gone But Not Forgotten
"On September 20, 2016, the PBGC issued proposed regulations expanding its missing participants program ... Certain modifications made in the proposed PBGC regulations may help further guide plan sponsors of ongoing plans on how to deal with missing participants. Though the current and proposed guidance applies only to terminated plans, it would seem prudent from a fiduciary standpoint to rely on similar principles, where applicable, when faced with missing participants in ongoing plans." (Trucker Huss)
Iron Worker Retirees Face Stacked Deck in Vote to Cut Pensions
"Nearly 2,000 Iron Workers in the Cleveland area will be voting by Jan. 20 to accept or reject cuts to their pensions, and the vote could pit active employees against retirees. It will be the first time a multiemployer pension fund will face such a vote, and the outcome could open the floodgates for dozens of other plans to take similar measures." (Bloomberg BNA)
Questionable Pension Asset Management Practices
"The New York State Teamsters Pension Fund is a multi-employer pension plan which is failing.... [It] appears that (a) opacity; (b) fees and expenses; and illiquidity, conflicts of interest and related risks, all have dramatically increased as the Fund's financial condition worsened -- all contrary to prudent fiduciary practice. In our experience, such a trifecta of imprudence is all-too-common among failing pensions." (STUMP)
[Official Guidance] Text of PBGC Requests for Information: Requests for Approving Certain Alternative Methods for Computing Withdrawal Liability; Settlement of Withdrawal and Mass Withdrawal Liability
"This is a request for information (RFI) to inform PBGC on issues arising from arrangements between employers and multiemployer plans involving an alternative 'two-pool' withdrawal liability method. PBGC seeks information from the general public and all interested stakeholders, including multiemployer plan participants and beneficiaries, organizations serving or representing retirees and other such individuals, multiemployer plan sponsors and professional advisors, contributing employers, unions, and other interested parties about these arrangements, including the various forms these arrangements may take, the terms and conditions that apply to new and existing contributing employers who enter into such arrangements, and the benefits and risks these arrangements may present to multiemployer plans and their participants, employers, the multiemployer pension insurance program, and other stakeholders in the multiemployer system." (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC])
Proposed Multiemployer Composite Plans: Background and Analysis (PDF)
19 pages. "The composite plan proposal is the third element of a proposal by representatives of an organization of multiemployer pension and health plans to reform multiemployer DB pension plans.... Retired participants in composite plans would receive monthly benefit payments. However, the benefit amounts could increase or decrease, depending on the investment experience of the plan. The composite plan proposal contains a procedure to address situations in which plan assets fall below 120% of plan liabilities, such as could occur if there were investment losses. This realignment program includes proposed, though not mandatory, contribution increases and mandatory benefit reductions." [Report R44722, Dec. 29, 2016] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
New York Teamsters May Have Their Pensions Cut, So What Went Wrong?
"[T]he Teamsters fund was hurt badly by the steep market decline of 2008. Those overseeing the fund also tie its troubles to the decline of unionized employment in the trucking industry, which has translated into fewer contributions to the plan.... But an examination of the fund identified other pernicious forces: most notably, illiquid, opaque and high-cost investments. At least 40 percent of the fund is in so-called alternative investments, including expensive private equity deals, hedge funds and real estate. For a fund poised to suspend benefits, holdings like these are especially problematic." (The New York Times; subscription may be required)
[Opinion] Setting the Stage for 2017: Failing Multiemployer Pension Plans
"[Multiemployer pension plans will] come up politically this year, because there are a couple plans in really bad shape and Congress punted last year. Unlike public pensions, where they at least have some power to tax people to keep the cash flowing, many multiemployer plans have gone from lots-and-lots-of-employers to only-a-few-employers-in-a-dying-industry. The guarantees for [multiemployer plans] are extremely skimpy, so when these plans fail, it's a lot worse when single employer plans fail ... Supposedly, having multiple employers involved was supposed to make the guarantee more stable than if there were only a single employer sponsoring the pension. This doesn't work so well in struggling industries, like mining." (STUMP)

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