NRLN’s Lobbying Efforts for You
The message below from the LRO Board of Directors cites the announcement from Nokia that the Nokia Retirement Income Plan "NRIP" (the pension plan for former management retirees) is funded at about 121% of its total benefit requirements. As a result of the well-funded pension plan, Nokia has decided to transfer up to $89 million of the excess pension assets to pay for Group Life coverage for eligible retired NRIP participants for the years ending December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2020. The transfer, if made, would occur on December 30, 2019.
At the request of Nokia and LRO, the NRLN has been advocating with members of Congress the passage of legislation that would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 420 to reduce the Section 420 surplus transfer limits from 120% and 125% to a lower level of 110%, subject to the requirement that annual plan surplus transfers be used for and may not exceed the combined annual life insurance and health insurance benefits or 1.75% of plan assets whichever is lower.
Passage of the amendment being lobbied by the NRLN would make it possible for Nokia (and other companies) with pension plans funded at 110% or more to use surplus funds to sustain benefits.
During the NRLN’s fall Fly-In to Washington, DC, NRLN Executive Director Alyson Parker and I met on September 24 with the Senior Policy Advisor on Pensions for Senator Chuck Grassley (IA), Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, regarding Section 420. He said that the Chairman is supportive of the need to protect employees and retirees from losing what they have been promised, like the protection of life insurance that the Section 420 provision offers, as currently contained in the Portman-Cardin bill.
Also, on September 24, regarding the Section 420 amendment, a meeting was held with a representative of the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), which lobbies corporate benefits issues for America’s largest employers. ERIC supports the amendment in the Portman-Cardin bill and it will, if necessary, attempt to attach the Section 420 amendment to any other pension bill that moves in Congress and wants NRLN support to get it done when the time comes.
The NRLN not only lobbied for the Section 420 amendment but also advocated its pension recoupment proposal. Recoupment is when a pension plan sponsor finds an error in the pension payment calculation and forces a retiree (some Lucent retirees have experienced this) to pay back thousands of dollars and suffer a cut in his/her pension benefit. The NRLN is advocating that there be a limit on the number of years that retirees can be exposed to paying back overpayments and the percent that can be taken from their monthly pension checks to repay the pension plan.
Senator Grassley’s Senior Policy Advisor on Pensions indicated that recoupment is the type of issue that the Chairman likes to get involved in and that he expects that provision to get support from the Chairman and move through the legislative process.
Also, a meeting was held with the Senior Counsel on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for Ranking Member Patty Murray (WA). She said Senator Murray is supportive of the NRLN’s recoupment initiative. During an August meeting, Alyson and I had met with staff members for Representative Richard Neal (MA-01), Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means, we heard favorable comments about the NRLN’s support for legislation to protect retirees in pension recoupment.
Bill Kadereit, President
National Retiree Legislative Network
TO ALL LRO MEMBERS ABOUT THE GROUP LIFE INSURANCE BENEFIT:
You will receive shortly an important notice from Nokia concerning your pension fund and the Group Life insurance fund. The first good news is that the Nokia Retirement Income Plan "NRIP" (the pension plan for former management retirees) is funded at about 121% of its total benefit requirements. Total assets in the plan are $17 billion which now allows Nokia to take further action to provide additional funding to our Group Life Insurance Plan.
You are probably aware of our concern that the Trust Fund which pays Group Life benefits has been expected to be depleted in a few more years. We have been working with Nokia to hopefully extend that for additional years. You should be aware that our retiree body is getting older and we are losing retirees at an increasing rate.
Under current federal law, a company with well funded pension plans (in excess of 120%) may transfer some of that excess to pay the cost of Group Life insurance. In order to do one of these transfers, an employer is required to notify participants at least 90 days before the date of the planned transfer. Although Nokia has not determined definitely that it will do the transfer, it is require to provide the notice now. As set forth in the notice, Nokia has determined that the excess above 120% is about $ 253 million.If they decide to move forward, they would transfer up to $ 89 million of the excess to pay for Group Life coverage for eligible retired NRIP participants for the years ending December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2020. The transfer, if made, would occur on December 30, 2019.
The transfer, if made, is expected to extend the life of the Group Life Trust for five years.
The Nokia notice closes with the assurance that the pension benefit for all NRIP participants is fully vested and nonforfeitable.
Questions about this transfer can be addressed to email@example.com or 1-205-915-2908.
LRO BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Lucent / Nokia Retirees Chapter
To: Lucent / Nokia Retirees August 26, 2019
Lucent retirees who signed below are current NRLN leaders who have agreed to form a new Lucent / Nokia NRLN Chapter to be effective later this year. The NRLN will continue to collaborate with the existing LRO board and support their previously announced dissolving of the LRO in 2020.
Your Chapter will have a website, email capability, and we will post relevant Lucent / Nokia Chapter news, company news and contact information. Chapter leaders will confer with Nokia management if needed, the NRLN FOCUS newsletter will be posted online; contributors without online access will get a FOCUS by mail. You will receive our Action Alerts on important matters to address with your U.S. Representative and Senators, and at times with the President. You will also receive other emails to keep you informed on retirement issues.
The Chapter will operate under the same model and rules currently governing the Prudential and General Motors chapters and startup chapters like the DuPont and TVA Chapters. Visit the NRLN homepage at www.nlrn.org and click the Chapter tab on the taskbar to see a list of current Chapters.
What the NRLN Lucent / Nokia Chapter Will Initially Work on for You
Protecting Your Life Insurance Benefit: LRO President Joe Dombrowski and the LRO board have worked hard to get Nokia management to fund our life insurance trust that will be depleted in about four years. The LRO and NRLN are advocating amendments to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 420 to allow employers like Nokia to use a portion of the plan’s surplus assets to fund life insurance and healthcare benefits. The NRLN will work to get these amendments approved before this situation becomes a personal crisis. You may be asked to help by sending NRLN Action Alert messages to elected members of congress in your state.
Protecting Life Insurance and Healthcare Benefits from a Nokia Insolvency: Should Nokia become insolvent they may voluntarily terminate our pension plan and buy annuity contracts which would replace but protect pension income. However, under current law they also may terminate healthcare PPO insurance and or eventually life insurance benefits and remaining pension plan surplus (minus excise taxes) may be taken to pay operating expenses in order to avoid bankruptcy. We all remember similar circumstances when Lucent cancelled the Death Benefit and then used over a billion dollars of life insurance trust funds to avoid bankruptcy before merging with Alcatel. The NRLN will develop and lobby for proposed statute changes that would require using remaining surplus to continue paying healthcare and life insurance benefits as a priority.
Protecting Social Security and Medicare for Future Generations: NRLN proposals would protect benefits of both programs by reducing wrong and improper Medicare and Medicaid payments of $90 billion a year and Social Security by cost cuts and raising the taxable earnings limits up to $400,000 over several years.
Protecting Your Medicare Advantage Plan: The CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) uses taxpayer subsidies to fund Medicare Advantage plans to move Medicare toward privatization, shifting more costs to seniors. NRLN advocates that should privatization happen that Medicare Advantage HMO plan participants be “grandfathered” from reductions in benefits, guaranteed the protection of baked in subsidies, low or no premiums, deductibles and copays. Nokia’s PPO plan provides more benefits than HMO MA plans.
Lobby to Reduce What You Pay for Prescription Drugs: The NRLN is lobbying for bills in Congress that would allow importation of safe and less expensive drugs from Canada, would remove the prohibition on Medicare competitive bidding and end pay-for-delay and other brand drug makers’ tactics to delay or prevent cheaper generic drugs from coming to market.
Financial Support for the Chapter: The NRLN is 80% sustained by individual member annual contributions. We will ask for an initial Chapter startup contribution this fall and hope you will financially support your new NRLN Lucent / Nokia Chapter. Annual contributors will receive a Chapter membership card.
Contact us or update your email address at: https://www.nrln.org/LUCENT/.
|Bill Kadereit, NRLN President
Past LRO Board Member
|Bob Martina, NRLN VP – Grassroots
2018 LRO Board Member
|Ed Beltram NRLN VP – Communications
Past LRO Board Member
|Joe Sciulli, NRLN VP – Social Media
2018 LRO Board Member