When companies de-risk pensions, retirees lose the protections of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and ERISA. Our sister organization, ProtectSeniors.Org has been lobbying for stronger protections of pension-annuities, including from bankruptcy and creditor claims.
We have also been seeking financial disclosures from insurance companies that provide annuity payments so that we can see the health of the institutions that own our pension assets. A report by the U.S. Treasury Department, “A Financial System that Creates Economic Opportunities,” discusses annuities. According to Pension and Investments, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a safe harbor rule in 2008 with respect to annuities, saying that employers who “appropriately” consider “sufficient” information as to whether the annuity provider will be able to make payments under the annuity contract will be protected from legal liability in case the insurer becomes insolvent.
According to the Treasury Department, these terms are not clearly defined—and the safe harbor still requires employers to consider whether the provider will be solvent decades into the future. “Many employers and their professional advisers are not comfortable relying on the safe harbor,” according to the Treasury Report. The Treasury Department recommends that it and the DOL “develop proposals on how to establish or certify one or more expert, independent fiduciary entities, to assess the long-term financial strength of annuity providers. These assessments, which could be in the form of ratings or other specific metrics, could assist ERISA-governed plan sponsors in complying with their fiduciary duty obligations in selecting annuity providers for plans.”
Please reach out to your elected officials at the state and federal levels and tell them how an annuity plan assessor would benefit the health of your pension-annuity and about the harmful effects that were caused by de-risking.