PRC News, November 4, 2021

PRC News, November 4, 2021


PRC receives a generous grant to support our mission. The Pension Rights Center is thrilled to announce that we have received a three-year grant from the RRF Foundation for Aging (RRF) totaling $375,000 ($125,000 a year). The funds will enable us to expand our efforts to protect and promote retirement security for workers and retirees, as well as to strengthen our communications and fundraising abilities so we can become an even greater powerhouse for change. We are incredibly thankful to RRF for its support of the Pension Rights Center throughout the years. RRF’s new funding is in line with RRF’s mission to enhance “economic security in later life.”  RRF is one of the few private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to aging issues

PRC is awarded a major cy pres award. Thanks to a settlement in a 401(k) case against a large financial institution, Bailey & Glasser LLP designated the Pension Rights Center to be the recipient of a $123,000 cy pres award. Read about the case here. After the money from the settlement was distributed to workers and retirees, there were additional amounts that could not be disbursed (either because class members couldn’t be found or for other reasons). Attorneys Gregory Porter and Mark Boyko asked the court to approve an award of the money left over from the settlement to two nonprofit organizations with aligned interests. PRC was one. According to Gregory Porter, “We are happy to have obtained the award for the Pension Rights Center in support of their work protecting the retirement rights and benefits of underserved communities.” While PRC has received cy pres awards in the past, this award is by far the largest, and we are very grateful.


PRC submitted comments against weakening spousal rights. PRC sent a comment letter to the IRS in opposition to efforts to weaken spousal rights to retirement benefits. Under the federal private pension law ERISA, a surviving spouse must automatically receive a survivors’ pension unless the spouse had already provided written consent to give up those critical benefits – in front of notary or a plan administrator. PRC’s comments vigorously opposed a proposal by the IRS to “permanently eliminate the important physical presence requirement in both defined benefit plans and in 401(k)s. See our comments to the IRS, press release, and a letter also opposing the weakening of spousal protections signed by a large group of women’s and retiree organizations, unions and groups representing survivors of domestic abuse.

PRC joined a Supreme Court amicus brief in Hughes v Northwestern University. The case involves a university’s 403(b) plan, which is similar to a 401(k) plan. The plan gave employees a choice of over 200 investment options, some of which had high fees or consistently bad investment performance. The participants argued that the plan’s fiduciaries should have dropped the bad investment options but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the fiduciaries were not liable so long as the plan also offered good investment options. The case is now before the Supreme Court to decide whether fiduciaries have a duty to monitor investments and eliminate from a plan’s investment options bad investment choices. It is an important case, for if the lower court decision is not reversed, we can expect many plans to simply offer participants a universe of investments, including bad ones, to protect fiduciaries from liability.

PRC Former Legal Director wins American College Simplification Award. PRC’s former Legal Program Director, Emily Spreiser, won the award from the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel for a paper she wrote about simplifying the process of getting a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A QDRO is a special court order that allows a retirement benefit to be divided in a divorce. Emily’s paper makes suggestions for simplifying the process to make it easier for individuals who are going through a divorce. Read the full paper here.


Kathleen Kennedy Townsend takes on a new role at the Department of Labor. We are pleased to announce that, former PRC Board of Directors member, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, has started her new role as the Representative on Retirement and Pension Issues for the Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh. Kathleen has spent much of her career working to advance state and federal policy to create accessible, portable retirement savings programs to help the most vulnerable save for a dignified retirement. We wish her luck in her new position and look forward to working with her on these important issues!


PRC and Covington & Burling submit comments on recoupment. The Pension Rights Center and Covington & Burling submitted comments to the IRS in response to the agency’s updated guidance on how plans can address issues when they accidentally overpay retirees and then want to “recoup the money.” In its comment letter, PRC and Covington & Burling said that the IRS’ overpayment recovery procedures have “upended the retirement security of countless innocent retirees.” While conceding that the new proposed correction procedures include improvements over prior guidance, the letter said, “They don’t go far enough to protect innocent retirees from destructive – and unnecessary – overpayment recovery actions that will still occur under the new rules.”  PRC and Covington & Burling recommended instead that the Administration support the provisions in bipartisan retirement reform legislation (the Securing a Strong Retirement Act and the Retirement Security and Savings Act) which provide the “…most certain way to provide the protections long overdue to innocent recipients of benefit overpayments.” Read the full letter here.

PRC Perspectives Blog

Congress gets closer to addressing the issue of lost retirement plans
Congress considers provisions that would limit when retirement plans can recover overpayments
What Women Facing Divorce Must Know About Spousal Retirement Benefits
Watch Out for 401(k) Fees

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PRC in the News
– Easing Retirement Plan Notarization Could Put Women at Risk
‘I’ll be robbed twice in one lifetime’: Retirees fearing financial disaster wait for pension rescue
– Lawmakers want to help retirement savers find their lost 401(k) and pension plans
– Congressional proposal would limit when retirees must return pension overpayments

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