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ARCHIVED DOCUMENTS FOR THE TVA RETIREES CHAPTER

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TVA pension fight angers workers, retirees

By Jamie McGee; The Tennessean ~ Apr 25, 2016

The headline that ran in 1999 painted a rosy picture: “TVA pension plan booming as investments thrive.” Tennessee Valley Authority Retirement Board directors credited a “prudent” investment strategy and explained the power provider could eliminate contributions and still meet its future retirement expenses.

And it did, reducing what had been close to $50 million in annual payments to nearly zero for six years, according to a 2010 audit of the government-owned corporation.

That same pension program is in trouble today, falling $6 billion short of its obligations to retirees. As Tennessee Valley Authority executives seek to reduce pension payments, retirees and employees are calling foul.

Read more...


To the Editor: Putting Pensions at Risk at T.V.A.

New York Times – March 10, 2016

Re “The Last Pension Domino” (Business Day, March 4):
It is deeply troubling that the Tennessee Valley Authority’s chief executive, William D. Johnson, is declaring war on his employees’ retirement savings while he takes home the highest compensation of any federal employee in the country ($6.4 million, according to your article). Read more...


Rep. Cohen questions fairness of TVA’s pension plan proposal

By Michael Collins, Knoxville News Sentinel – March 8, 2016

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen raised concerns Tuesday about what he called the "apparent inequity" in proposed changes to the Tennessee Valley Authority's pension plan for employees and executives.

In a letter to TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson, Cohen took issue with TVA's proposal to reduce pension benefits for many employees and then shift them from a plan that guarantees a fixed level of benefits into a 401(k) plan for future benefit payments.Read more...


Congressman questions why TVA cut employee pensions but not executive compensation

By Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press – March 8, 2016

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, R-Tenn., today urged TVA President Bill Johnson to cut executive pensions along with reductions in some pension benefit increases planned for TVA's rank and file employees and retirees.

In a letter to TVA, Cohen criticized what he said was "an apparent inequity" in the way the federal utility plans to change pension benefits for employees and the lack of changes in TVA's supplemental executive retirement plans. Read more...


Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition
NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For Information Contact:
Mike Moseley
Bowling Green, KY
931-216-3091
mmoseley1617@gmail.com

TVA Retirees Join Forces with National Network

Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition Cites
$6 billion shortfall in TVA Pension Plan for Retirees and Employees

BOWLING GREEN, KY. (Feb. 9, 2016) – In response to TVA’s under-funding of its employee pension for over a decade, a group of TVA retirees have formed the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC). TVARC has now joined forces with the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) to seek Congressional assistance in bringing the employee pension back to a safely funded level. At the end of FY 2015, TVA’s employee pension was only 53 percent funded with liabilities of $12.8 billion and assets of $6.8 billion, leaving the pension underfunded by $6 billion. TVA’s employee pension covers 35,000 retirees and employees, most of whom reside in the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, And Mississippi. Read more...


News Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Mike Moseley, President
Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition
Email: mmoseley@twc.com Phone: 931-216-3091

Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition Urges Members of Congress to Protect TVA Pension Plan Participants

Retirees Concerned that Pension Plan Is $6 Billion Underfunded

BOWLING GREEN, KY (March 2, 2016) The Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC) has urged members of Congress to take action to protect the Tennessee Valley Authori-ty (TVA) pension plan participants from potential economic disaster due the $6 billion underfund-ing of the TVA pension plan. Read more...


6 billion reasons why TVA's leadership should be criticized

Editorial - Florence Alabama Daily Times – Feb. 15, 2016

For all the talk about runaway profits of 21st century CEOs and the gaudy riches of the 1 percent club, our perception usually is of Beltway backroom negotiations and Wall Street wolves.

But reports this week the Tennessee Valley Authority lost $762 million in pension fund investments in fiscal 2015, leaving the federal agency with an unprecedented $6 billion shortfall, is all the more breathtaking when we understand TVA’s CEO is the highest paid federal employee in America.

Bill Johnson has a compensation package that paid him $6.4 million this year, yet TVA’s 10,000 active employees and 24,000 retirees clearly have legitimate reason to worry whether they will receive their promised benefits. Read more...


TVA fund needs ERISA help

Editorial – Pensions & Investments – Jan 11, 2016

The Tennessee Valley Authority's executive management and board of directors have not been up to the task of overseeing the company's defined benefit plan and its pension promises.

The plan's funding has deteriorated to levels that force the TVA to propose drastic changes to the plan. Those changes include benefit reductions and freezing its cash balance plan. But the proposal falls short of a disciplined program for shoring up funding. Read more...


TVA retirees 'reject' proposal to cut $700 million from underfunded pension plan

By Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press - Feb 12, 2016

TVA directors said Thursday that changes must be made to the utility's underfunded pension plan, but TVA retirees appealed to the board to modify their proposal to cut $700 million of retirement benefits for the nearly 35,000 employees and retirees covered by the TVA retirement system. Read more...

TVA retirees organize to press Congress, utility on pension shortfall

By Ed Marcum, Knoxville News Sentinel – Feb 10, 2016

TVA retirees are organizing to get Congressional leaders to put pressure on the federal utility to address a pension plan the retirees say is woefully underfunded.

A group of retirees has formed the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition as a chapter of the National Retiree Legislative Network, so they can gain some clout in Washington, D.C., Mike Moseley, executive committee member with the coalition, said Wednesday. Read More...

TVA and TVARS Proposals Don’t Meaningfully Improve Pension Funding

May 6, 2016

Dear Member of Congress:

This is in reference to recent proposals and discussions related to the funded status of the TVA employees’ defined benefit pension plan (the plan). We appreciate your interest and support for TVA pension plan participants and a prosperous TVA.

There is widespread concern among retirees and employees that none of the proposals offered by TVA and TVARS results in a meaningful improvement in the pension’s funded status (currently 53%) level for 10-15 years. Delaying proper funding of the plan will leave their plan pensions vulnerable to the equity markets and TVA’s operational risks.

Read more...

While extreme market volatility is a major concern, equally worrisome are catastrophic events that could impede TVA’s ability to fund the plan. Examples from recent years include the Kingston ash spill ($1.2 billion) , Watts Bar Nuclear Plant cost overruns ($2.2 billion) , and trading losses on TVA’s natural gas hedging program ($1.1 billion) . A nuclear incident could force a shutdown and/or costly modifications of TVA’s generating facilities, resulting in a serious disruption of operations and the ability to fund this plan.

An added concern is that TVA’s management, as part of its recent proposal to TVARS is insisting that plan assets be used to pay lump sum benefits. If the TVA retirement plan was covered by ERISA, along with requiring more adequate ongoing plan funding than is being proposed by TVA, ERISA rules would prohibit a lump sum offer, draining plan assets, when a plan is funded below 80% (see 53% below). This has been recently reinforced by a Treasury ruling prohibiting lump sum offers to those in pay status. This is more evidence that a Federal agency with a profile of over $11 billion in wholesale sales has no business being insulated from the real world by Congress. This TVA single-payer defined benefit pension plan should be ERISA protected.

Reaching a stronger funded-level sooner would not only benefit the plan and its participants, but TVA and its ratepayers would benefit as well. The TVA Board should view a more rapid funding of the plan as a cushion that would soften the blow when the next stock market or operational catastrophic event occurs and that would provide a much needed layer of protection to ratepayers and plan participants.

In recent years, many corporations have used borrowed funds to make substantial contributions to their pensions. A Reuter’s news article from April 2012 stated: “…Faced with ballooning deficits in their pension funds, US companies are increasingly turning to the bond market to help plug the gap, taking advantage of super-low borrowing costs…” The article goes on to state that several large corporations have used longer-dated bond maturities of up to 30 years in order to capitalize on the value of all-time low rates.

TVA’s financial standing has significantly improved and its capital expenditures are expected to decline by over $2.0 billion over the next three years. TVA should use some of this cash to make a large single payment to the plan to make up a portion of the 47% plan shortfall.

We recognize that TVA is subject to a statutory debt limit imposed by Congress and that its business plan has guidelines that limit the use of long term debt. However, due to extremely low rates available on long term debt, we believe it would be imprudent for TVA to dismiss the use of long term debt as part of its strategy to solve the pension funding challenge. Congress has the ability to sanction this action.

Funding the plan faster with a significant contribution may not cost TVA and its ratepayers any extra money. In fact, according to TVA’s 2015 SEC 10-K, it appears an up-front contribution could improve TVA’s cash flows and reduce the rates TVA charges its customers.

In today’s bond markets, TVA may be able to borrow funds at a rate of 3.5% to 4% (maybe less) and repay the debt over 20, 30, or even 50 years. According to TVA’s 2015 SEC 10-K (page 71), TVA management states the expected rate of return on pension assets will be 7.0%. It appears the combination of these factors presents an extraordinary opportunity for TVA, its ratepayers, and its plan participants.

If TVA used just half of its $2.0 billion capital savings or made a $1.0 billion contribution to the plan from the $3-$4 billion available from its ability to borrow under the federal debt limit, the plan funded status would immediately jump from 53% to 66% - a much needed improvement.

Assuming TVA borrowed $1.0 billion at 3.5% for 30 years, the annual required payment on the loan would be about $ 54 million. Since TVA believes the rate of return on plan assets will be 7%, the return on the $1.0 billion would be about $70 million per year, or $16 million more than the required payment. This $16 million a year plus earnings, based on the expected rate of return of 7%, would add another $1.5 billion into the plan over 30 years. Any amount borrowed at a 3.5 % rate for 30 years would increase earnings, would have a positive effect on utility rates and would help secure pension benefits.

Implementing the above actions, in addition to TVA’s current proposal on the table (less a lump sum offer) would immediately improve the funded status of the pension plan and TVA’s cash flow, decrease TVA’s pension costs, decrease TVA’s revenue requirements, and result in a decrease in the rates TVA must charge its customers. This is an opportunity for Members of Congress to support a “win-win-win” solution.

We respectfully request that your office encourage the TVA Board, not with-standing a TVA-TVARS short term patch agreement, to take immediate action to implement one or both of these remedies and to invoke ERISA rules into TVARS rules to create a win-win-win for all parties.

Best Regards,

Mike Moseley, President Bill Kadereit, President
Tennessee Valley Authority Retiree Coalition National Retiree Legislative Network
Email: mmoseley1617@gmail.com Email: president@nrln.org

From: Mike Moseley, President, TVARC
Subject: TVARC Action Alert: GAO Says Fully Fund TVA Pension Plan
Date: 04/28/17

The Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC) requests support from TVARC members, members of TVA Retiree Chapters, our Unions, readers and senders of Facebook and Twitter messages and other contacts to send a message to our Tennessee Valley members of Congress. Please read this message and then go to http://www.nrln.org/congress.html#/54 to respond to this important Action Alert.

Background

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked by Congress to review the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) plan for debt reduction and to make recommendations: the first was that TVA must better communicate its plans for overall debt reduction and second, the GOA specifically recommends that TVA take steps to have its retirement system adopt funding rules designed to ensure the pension plan’s full funding. (Click here to read the GAO’s Report.)

READ MORE...


NLRN/TVARC Position Paper Recommends Remedy for TVA Pension Problems

The National Legislative Retiree Network (NRLN) and the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC) have developed a Position Paper entitled: TVA Pension Underfunding: History, Causes and Implications, specifically intended for the U.S. Government Accountability Office and members of Congress. This paper examines the TVA pension system financial condition over the past 30 years, identifies a number of factors involved in the situation, points to a primary root cause, and addresses some implications for the financial future of the pension system. And very importantly, recommends the most effective way to permanently remedy the TVA pension problems.

Click here to read this important document which should be of interest to all participants in the TVA pension plan.

Mike Moseley, President, TVA Retirees Coalition


Congressional Committee On Tranportation and Infrastructure Sends Letter to TVA President and CEO William D. Johnson Questioning Pension Plan Changes (4/11/2016)

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure sent a letter to TVA President and CEO William D. Johnson on April 11, 2016 requesting specific information related to TVA's recent proposal to dramatically modify the pension system and the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirement System (TVARS) Board's counter proposal (See letter here). The letter asks six pointed questions related to issues such as the $6 Billion pension fund shortfall, the Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan (SERP), the rational for not making any changes to the SERP, the rational for TVA contributing less than the TVARS recommended contribution for each of the years TVA has not met the TVARS recommended contribution level, details on the changes TVA made to its pension system in 2009 and data regarding the impact of these changes on the overall viability of the TVA pension system and details of TVA's contributions to the pension system to date. In addition the committee requested that TVA "take all available actions to prevent the adoption and implementation of any modifications to TVA's pension system that could harm TVA workers and retirees".

Letters such as these show the importance of engaging our congressional representatives in the NLRN/TVARC's ongoing mission to protect our pension and other retirement benefits . Retirees and employees must continue to press Congress to take action on our behalf. Please contact fellow retirees, retiree clubs and others, including retired friends and family in the TVA states to join in to help us achieve ERISA status for our pension plan. Ask them to sign up to receive our emails by going to www.nrln.org and clicking on the sign-up icon at the top of the home page.


TVARC’s Protest of TVARS’ Counter-Proposal to TVA (3/9/16)

This message refers to the TVARS counter-proposal that the TVARS Board approved on March 3, 2016. Although we are encouraged to see there is an active dialogue among TVA leadership, TVARS Board, and pension plan participants, we continue to be concerned that there is more focus on benefit reductions than on appropriate funding. In addition, we are concerned that the future treatment of the pension will continue to be subject to the whims of TVA leadership and not rooted in established law. We protested the TVA proposal, and we now protest the TVARS counter-proposal to TVA.

Read more...

Both proposals continue to subject the pension to substantial risk because of the protracted period to restore the pension to a safely funded level. The only way to get to a safely funded level in a reasonable amount of time is to make significant contributions. As a result, we continue to believe that no benefit reductions should be considered, and that the most effective long term solution is to ask Congress to bring the TVA pension under the purview of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and other related regulations, just like TVA’s competitors. Making this change would accelerate restoration of the pension to a safely funded level, provide a guarantee of pension benefits, and would subject TVA executives to penalties and additional taxes if plan funding is not adequate.

Following are some specific aspects of the counter-proposal that we find problematic.

The TVARS March 3, 2016 Counter Proposal:

Mike Moseley, President
Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition


TVARC Letter Urges Congress to Protect Our Pensions (3/1/16)

The Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC) took a major step this week in its efforts to gain support for the protection of the pension plan for TVA retirees and employees. On February 29, the attached letter was sent to 125 members of Congress to urge them to take action to protect TVA pension plan participants from potential economic disaster due to the $6 billion underfunding of the TVA pension plan.

The letter, which was co-written by the TVARC Executive Committee and the President of the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN), asked members of Congress to hold hearings and to take steps to convert the TVA pension plan to a plan protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). We believe that TVA’s 35,000 TVA retirees and employees deserve the pension protections afforded to private sector pension plans since TVA no longer receives federal funding, has no effective pension oversight, and has allowed the funded status of the pension to decline to dangerously low levels.

Read More...

The three-page letter with two charts depicting the history of the funding of our pension plan was sent to members of Senate and House committees that have responsibility for TVA oversight, the TVA Congressional caucus and the U.S. Senators and Representatives in the TVA seven-state region.

A total of 125 letters went to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plus all members of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety and the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. Twenty-four members of the TVA Congressional caucus were sent the letter. The letter also went to the 14 U.S. Senators and 64 U.S. Representatives in the TVA’s seven states territory.

We expect these members of Congress who have a responsibility to oversee TVA operations to become engaged in providing protection for our pension plan under federal law and encourage TVA executives and board members to adequately fund our pension plan that is funded at only 53 percent.

Soon we will request your assistance in a grassroots effort to follow up our letter with your Senators and Representatives in an effort to hold them accountable for helping their constituents gain a more secure financial future.

We have added a message board (above) where you may make comments, ask questions and receive a response from a member of the TVARC Executive Committee. Also, while you or on the webpage consider making an Individual Membership contribution to your Chapter and the NRLN by following the instructions to use your credit card or send a check with the membership form. If you have already made an Individual Membership contribution, thank you for your support. Your Individual Membership will help cover TVARC expenses.

Remember, click on the attachment link above this message to read the TVARC letter to members of Congress.

Mike Moseley, President
Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition


Message from TVARC Executive Committee (2/16)

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has underfunded the TVA Retirement System (TVARS) for many years. Most recently, over the past eight years, the funded status of the pension has fallen to the lowest level in the history of the TVA. Current TVA financials indicate a $6 billion shortfall that equates to only 53% of funds necessary to provide pension benefits to the 23,700 retirees, 10,900 employees and their family members. Even with TVA’s record profits in 2015 of $1.1 billion net income, the TVA’s contribution to the Retirement System seemed to intentionally ignore the underfunding.

Read more...

TVA contributed $283 Million to the pension in 2015, but payments to retirees in 2015 exceeded $600 Million. TVA’s proposal to fund the pension with only $275 million a year will keep it in a severely underfunded status for many years into the future, and only pushes our pension plan toward the danger of being terminated by TVA. Pension plans in other companies that are similarly funded are being terminated across our country by plan sponsors who likewise have always verbally committed to protecting retiree income security.

TVA retirees (current and future) are concerned that the TVA executive management team is trying to undermine our pension plan funding and benefits. We want to assure you that none of us should view our joint concerns about pension benefits as an attack on how TVARS operates nor do we want anything but continued financial success for TVA and all active and retired members of the TVA family.

We believe our best hope for pension security is for our legislators to hold TVA accountable for funding its commitments to retirees by mounting a campaign with members of Congress who have TVA oversight roles to gain pension funding equity. It is not merely a “pension problem”, or “pension liabilities to get under control”, these are PENSION COMMITMENTS. This is why we have formed the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Coalition (TVARC). Your collective efforts will make a difference for effective and efficient processes to protect our Retirement Security. Our immediate focus will include “The Significant Three”:

  1. Protection and Enhancement of Retiree Income
  2. Protection and Enhancement of Retiree Health Care Benefits
  3. Retiree Income and Health Care Benefit Tax Reform

To assist TVARC in accomplishing its objectives we have become a Chapter in the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN), a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing more than 2 million retirees and future retirees from 168 different companies and public entities.

Formation of TVARC under the umbrella of the NRLN is not meant to usurp the authority, existence or work of the TVARA. Our new organization's focus, among other things, is to advocate with specific members of Congress to support TVARS’ ability to protect our pensions from TVA and reinforce TVA’s obligation to contribute adequate funding to TVARS.

The NRLN will apply its experience in lobbying members of Congress and their staffs to communicate the importance of protecting the pension security of TVA Retirees. By having TVA Retirees’ email addresses in the NRLN’s secure database, TVARC will be able to regularly communicate with you and provide Action Alerts for you to easily email letters to your U.S. Representative and Senators to urge their support for TVA retirees to receive a fair shake. Also, to communicate with you TVARC will produce a two-page newsletter three times a year. You will also be sent NRLN Action Alerts on issues important to all retirees and other NRLN messages on retirement issues.

Not only will TVARC members be asked to advocate for TVA Retirees’ pension security, but at appropriate times the NRLN will urge all of its grassroots advocates, or those in TVA states, to support our cause. We will be supported by the NRLN’s 30 Retiree Associations and Chapters including that of another power utility, the Detroit Edison Alliance of Retirees (DEAR), that has years of experience dealing with their former employer.

We have learned a great deal from the NRLN about the ways American companies are trying to shed pension plans. We see a direct parallel in what TVA has done by strangling funding of our plan down to 53%. TVARS must help us but we must also help ourselves.

PLEASE SIGN UP TO RECEIVE TVARC EMAILS AND PASS THE WORD TO OTHER TVA RETIREES AND FUTURE RETIREES TO DO THE SAME. SIGN UP BY GOING TO WWW.NRLN.ORG AND CLICK THE SIGN UP LINK AT THE TOP OF THE HOME PAGE. WHEN YOU ENTER YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION SCROLL DOWN AND SELECT THE NRLN TVA RETIREES CHAPTER DESIGNATION AT THE BOTTOM OF THE DROP DOWN MENU. HELP US DELIVER OUR MESSAGE TO TVARS, TVA, GOVERNORS IN TVA STATES AND MEMBERS of CONGRESS. ALSO, PLEASE BECOME AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER CONTRIBUTOR OF TVARC AND NRLN SO THAT FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE TO EXECUTE OUR MISSION.

Mike Moseley – mmoseley1617@gmail.com
Les Bays – lpbays1@yahoo.com
Dan Pitts - danpitts99@gmail.com
Bob Taylor - retaylorxtva@gmail.com


Letter to TVA Region Elected Officials

Tennessee Valley Authority Retirement System Financial Condition

By Mike Moseley, TVARC Executive Committee Member, Bowling Green, KY

We are Tennessee Valley Authority retirees, employees, family members and friends. Many of us are second and third generation "TVA family" who have lived and worked for improvement of the quality of life for all in the Tennessee Valley Authority's seven state service area and beyond. We are grateful forOn behalf of the more than 2 million retirees whose interests are represented by the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN), I am writing to you to express our extreme disappointment with the position you have taken as the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives on three Medicare issues. (1) We are disappointed that you have not supported legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. (2) You have not convinced the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce committee to pass H.R. 2228, the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2015. (3) You have supported the House Republicans’ health care reform plan that opportunity. We are not asking for a "free ride" nor a handout. All that we want is assurance that our families continue to receive the benefits promised to us by the TVA, namely our hard earned pensions and other retirement benefits.

Read more...

The TVA has underfunded the TVA Retirement System for many years and it is at the lowest level in the history of the TVA. Current TVA financials indicate a $6 billion shortfall that equates to only 53% of funds (see the chart below) necessary to provide pension benefits to the 23,700 retirees, 10,900 employees and their family members. Even with record profits this year of $1.1 billion net income, the TVA’s contribution to the Retirement System was less than half of payments to retirees.

According to a recent article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, even TVA Director Pete Mahurin acknowledged TVA needs to get its underfunded pension fund in better shape. While praising the financial improvements that led TVA to a record $1.1 billion of net income in fiscal 2015, Mahurin said TVA "needs to get our pension liabilities under better control. I think we've got a real problem with that," said Mahurin, the chairman of the TVA board committee on rates and finances.

Our question is "how is TVA going to "get the pension liabilities under control"? TVA is unlike private utilities and is not covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act pension funding requirement. TVA's Pension Benefits are not insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

As our elected officials, we turn to you and ask that you give due consideration to our concerns and take all necessary steps, including congressional hearings, and other due diligence to hold TVA accountable for its promises to us. After all, we were accountable for our promises.

Thank you for your continued service to our nation.

Pension Ratio


TVARC’s Protest of TVA’s Response (4/18/16) to TVAR's Counter-Proposal to TVA (3/9/16)

TVARC has reviewed the April 18, 2016, TVA proposal (See proposal here) for changes to the pension system. The prior March 3, 2016, TVARS counterproposal was deeply flawed. See Note 1 below and the TVARC’s Protest of TVARS’ Counter-Proposal to TVA (3/9/16) at left. The new TVA proposal has many similarities to the TVARS counterproposal and it suffers from all the same flaws. But it is worse.

Both proposals fail to address the fundamental problem addressed in the TVARC Position Paper. We continue to be concerned that there is more focus on benefit reductions than on appropriate funding. In addition, we are concerned that the future treatment of the pension will continue to be subject to the whims of TVA leadership and not rooted in established law. We protested the December 2015 TVA proposal, the March 2016 TVARS counter-proposal, and now we protest the April TVA proposal.

Read more...

The latest TVA proposal and the prior TVARS counter-proposal continue to subject the pension to substantial risk because of the protracted period to restore the pension to a safely funded level. The only way to get to a safely funded level in a reasonable amount of time is to make significant contributions. As a result, we continue to believe that no benefit reductions should be considered, and that the most effective long term solution is to ask Congress to bring the TVA pension under the purview of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and other related regulations, just like TVA’s competitors. Making this change would accelerate restoration of the pension to a safely funded level, provide a guarantee of pension benefits, and would subject TVA executives to penalties and additional taxes if plan funding is not adequate.

However, the TVA proposal is even worse than the TVARS counterproposal because of several significant differences. The overall effect of these differences is to provide avenues by which TVA can more easily make future additional reductions in benefits and renege on its promise to provide a specified level of pension contributions. These differences are discussed in subsequent paragraphs.

Under the TVA proposal, a simple majority (rather than a super-majority) of TVARS directors could decide to do any or all of the following:

In the past, TVA has been able to make similar crippling changes to the pension system by getting the seventh TVARS director to side with TVA. If the TVA proposal were to be implemented, we should expect TVA to impose similar harmful actions in the future.

The TVA proposal would make it more difficult to reduce the investment risk of the TVARS portfolio by changing TVARS asset allocation policy. Reduced investment risk is needed in order to improve the likelihood that pension assets would be available as needed for expenses. However, reducing risk would likely mean reducing the rate of return on the portfolio. Under the TVA proposal, TVA could veto a TVARS decision to reduce portfolio risk by changing asset allocation policy. A simple majority (rather than a supermajority) of TVARS directors could decide to pursue riskier investments in hopes of greater returns.

Lump sum cash outs and cash balance transfers would be paid out of TVARS assets (instead of by TVA) even if the pension funding status is less than 80%. This is very significant because the funding status is likely to remain less than 80% for a long time. Apparently TVA is content with chronic severe underfunding. This provision would further reduce any incentive for TVA to improve the underfunding.

TVA also proposes to “explore” the possibility of arranging for an “emergency” interim replacement for the seventh TVARS director, which could be a knowledgeable outsider rather than a retiree. Despite the exploratory nature of this idea, it is of concern because of numerous potential pitfalls if it were to be implemented.

The latest TVA proposal is further evidence that the pension rights of retirees and employees remain at great risk until TVA is made subject to ERISA or ERISA-like laws, as NRLN and TVARC requested in our February 29 letter to Congress and in our position paper. Regardless of whether the new TVA proposal is adopted, retirees and employees must continue to press Congress to take action on this request. If you have not already done so, please join this effort and volunteer to help. Visit the NRLN website here to sign up to receive NRLN important messages and see the box at below left to learn what else you can do to help.

Note 1. Summary of Problems with the TVARS March 3, 2016, Counter Proposal

This counter proposal: