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COMMENTARY:

How CEOs Rip Off Pensions

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation earlier today, 23 November 2009

What’s left of the American pension system is a pit of unexplored corruption. Corporate management has used the pension fund as a piggy bank to make speculative investments, and cover its ass in any number of ways. The pensions themselves are supposed to be guaranteed by a government insurance fund, but during the Bush administration there was much speculation it was being used by its leaders to speculate in stocks and bonds.

As for the happy-go-lucky “seniors” enjoying their so-called “golden years,” well, they’re scrounging around trying to make ends meet due to their companies having dumped them into loser 401k plans. Those that were left with old fashioned pensions are getting screwed by their CEOs who rip off the company for millions, leaving the pension in arrears, then bundle everything up and sling it to the government backed pension insurance fund.

“Top executives at four companies that jettisoned their employee pension plans received $49.5 million in retirement and severance benefits in the years before the companies filed for bankruptcy, while retirees saw their benefits cut by as much as two thirds, congressional investigators conclude in a report released Thursday”, says USA Today

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that pensions at the companies, United Airlines, US Airways, Polaroid and Reliance Insurance, were underfunded by more than $11 billion when the companies turned them over to a government-backed insurance fund. The report says executives at those four companies and six others that abandoned their pension plans took in a total of $350 million in pay and perks in the years leading up to the bankruptcies.

“If the pension is getting deeper into trouble and the executives are getting richer, there’s something wrong with that picture,” said House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif.

No Kidding.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on November 23, 2009.