PRC urges IRS to protect spouses
The Pension Rights Center (PRC) filed comments with the IRS/Treasury Department on March 30th urging the agency to strengthen – not weaken – critical legal protections for spouses’ retirement security. In its letter, PRC registered its strong disapproval of an IRS proposed rule that would eliminate the long-standing requirement that a spouse can only waive their right to a survivor annuity in the physical presence of a notary or plan official, which protects against fraud and coercion and impresses on the spouse the financial significance of the waiver. The IRS/Treasury would eliminate this important physical presence requirement in favor of allowing the signed consent to be witnessed online, which would reduce the impact of the requirement that the spouse’s signature be witnessed. Read our press release on the statement. PRC’s Senior Policy Analyst and Acting Legal Director Norman Stein testified on these issues before the IRS and the Department of the Treasury on April 11th. In addition, a group of nineteen women’s and retiree organizations, unions, and groups representing survivors of domestic abuse also filed letters to the IRS.
PRC applauds passage of key consumer protections in SECURE 2.0
The Pension Rights Center celebrated the inclusion of several key consumer protection provisions in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (better known as SECURE 2.0), a legislative package that was passed in December 2022 as part of the Omnibus spending legislation. Among the specific provisions PRC supported include the creation of a Retirement Savings Lost and Found, new protections for workers and retirees in recoupment actions, and assuring that participants receive their benefit statements in hard copy unless they specifically request that the statements be sent electronically, and a government matching contribution for moderate-income individuals. Learn more about the provisions we supported in SECURE 2.0 here.
PRC participated in webinars on the risks to consumers in pension risk transfer
Karen Friedman, PRC’s Executive Director, participated in the Retiree Roundtable 2023 webinar sponsored by Retirees for Justice on the issue of pension risk transfers – a popular strategy where employers remove pension liabilities from their corporate balance sheets either by transferring their pension liabilities to an insurance company or by offering lumpsum buyouts to retirees and workers. Karen, who focused her presentation on consumer protections needed in these transactions, joined fellow panelists attorney Edward Stone, Executive Director, Retirees for Justice; Stephen Pilger, National Sales Director, Pension Risk Transfers, Ash Brokerage; and Marty Leary, Research Director and Vice President, UNITE HERE!. View the roundtable discussion here. In addition, Norman Stein, PRC’s Senior Policy and Legal Counsel and Acting Legal Director, participated in a panel sponsored by PBI on April 5th entitled “PRT in 2023: Experts react to the impact of inflation, interest rates and market volatility.” Norman, who joined panelists from Alight and Corebridge Financial, advocated for needed protections for workers and retirees when these de-risking transactions take place.
PRC receives cy pres award
PRC is grateful that the law firm Bailey & Glasser designated the Pension Rights Center as a recipient of a significant cy pres award. A cy pres award allows for the distribution of leftover funds from a lawsuit settlement to be disbursed to a charitable organization whose mission generally aligns with the purpose of the action. Gregory Y. Porter, a partner with the firm, said he is “delighted that undisbursed money is going to the Pension Rights Center, which has been working for 47 years to protect retirement security for workers and retirees, particularly for lower and moderate wage earners.” Read our press release about the cy pres award here.
Many California boxers are missing out on getting pensions they have earned
In a recent LA Times article, reporter Melody Gutierrez revealed that the California Professional Boxers’ Pension Plan, the nation’s only pension plan established to provide retirement for aging boxers, isn’t delivering on its promise to pay out retirement benefits to hundreds of retired fighters. The LA Times investigation found that “roughly 200 boxers could have claimed a pension last year, but only 12 of them… did so.” In many cases, that’s because eligible boxers didn’t receive any information from the plan telling them that they earned the right to a pension. Norman Stein, quoted in the article, said “We have never seen anything quite like” the way the boxers’ pension plan is structured. He added, “I think the biggest issue is what are they doing to locate people… And why haven’t they done more?”
PRC hopes that the plan, in light of the article’s revelations, will make needed changes, particularly in increasing efforts to ensure that eligible boxers know about their benefits. If you are a boxer or the spouse of a boxer and think that you might be entitled to a pension, you should contact the plan. If you need help doing that, or need help dealing with the plan, you can contact the Western States Pension Assistance Project, which provides free assistance for Californians trying to obtain pension benefits. The project can be reached at (866) 413-4911.
We’re hiring a Legal Director!
We are looking for a dynamic, passionate, public interest-oriented lawyer to oversee the Center’s legal program. For more information, qualification requirements, and application instructions, see the full job description here.
PRC Perspectives Blogs:
PRC In the News: