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    Highlights for week ending March 22, 2003
  • Janet Krueger summarizes the comments she'll make in Washington, D.C. at the Treasury Department hearing on April 9 regarding the proposed Treasury regulations legalizing cash balance pension plan conversions. This is a must-read posting. Excerptst: "I stated that the main thrust of my remarks to would be to ask the Treasury to withdraw the proposed regulations because they overturn existing ERISA law that protects workers from age discrimination and corporate greed, preempt open EEOC charges and pending lawsuits, and usurp Congressional responsibility." ... "III. Discussion of cash balance plans, showing why the benefits claimed by corporate America, such as the attraction of younger, mobile workers, are myths. In reality, the plans allowed by the proposed Treasury regulations would be bad for ALL workers. The initial vesting period is still too long. Cash balance plans are not portable if workers leave before they are vested. Cash balance plans encourage vested workers to leave early, just to get reasonable investment options on the accumulated funds. Cash balance plans don't define a final benefit."


  • American Society of Pension Actuaries (ASPA): ASPA Comments on IRS Cash Balance Proposed Regulations. Excerpts: "The importance of promoting defined benefit plan coverage for our nation's workers cannot be understated. Due to the decline in the stock market, millions of American workers relying solely on defined contribution vehicles for retirement savings have been forced to either delay retirement or seriously reevaluate their retirement standard of living expectations."


  • Reuters News Service: Buffett lays more heat on boards. Excerpts: "More sharp elbows and less back-slapping in clubby boardrooms would do more to prevent future business scandals than a heap of new rules and regulation, according to the Oracle of Omaha. Warren Buffett, in his widely read annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, said pliant directors who failed to ask tough questions or fire executives are partly to blame for the recent corporate catastrophes." ... "When a compensation committee -- 'armed, as always, with support from a high-paid consultant' -- proposes a giant stock option grant for the CEO, 'it would be like belching at the dinner table for a director to suggest that the committee reconsider'."


  • Washington Post: Health Insurance Back as Key Issue. Campaign by Unlikely Allies for Universal Coverage Reflects Big Shift in Public Opinion. Excerpt: "During some period in 2001 and 2002, about 75 million Americans under age 65 went without health insurance, according to a new analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Census Bureau data show that more than 75 percent of the uninsured work at least part time and that about 32 percent earned more than $50,000 in 2001."


  • New York Times: Bush Pushes Plan to Curb Medicare Appeals. Excerpt: "The Bush administration says it is planning major changes in the Medicare program that would make it more difficult for beneficiaries to appeal the denial of benefits like home health care and skilled nursing home care. In thousands of recent cases, federal judges have ruled that frail elderly people with severe illnesses were improperly denied coverage for such services."


  • Alliance@IBM: IBM's "Future Health Account" or, How you've been ripped off. Excerpt: "The following research comparing the previous retiree health account to the 'Future Health Account' (FHA) has been developed by CWA's Benefits Research Department." Editor's note: This is a must read report for understanding how the FHA really works, and what IBM has done to its future retirees.


  • Pensacola News-Journal: Medical malpractice 'crisis' isn't one. Study: Doctors' insurance rates rising to cover lagging insurance industry. Excerpt: "Florida's rising medical malpractice rates cannot be blamed on soaring jury awards, a study by Gannett News Service shows. Insurance and medical lobbies pushing for a $250,000 lifetime cap on malpractice lawsuits blame multimillion-dollar jury awards, greedy lawyers and a sue- happy public for ballooning malpractice insurance premiums doctors must pay. They say the cap will ease rising costs. But there is no malpractice crisis in Florida's courts. An examination of court records as well as state and national insurance data found no significant increase in malpractice cases in recent years. There were few jury awards to speak of, and there was only modest growth in payments made to settle cases with patients. That's true across Florida and throughout the nation, the records show."


  • CNET News: Ex-Sun worker files discrimination suit. Excerpt: "A former Sun Microsystems employee is suing the company, claiming it violated age and race discrimination laws by keeping younger East Indian workers while firing him and other American workers. Walter Kruz, 52, who worked for Sun starting in May 2000 as a software engineering manager, claims Sun cut American workers and replaced them with workers from India who were younger and lower-paid. The suit alleges that Sun refused to rehire any of the laid off American workers, and that it developed a performance evaluation program that favored the retention of H-1B visa holders in order to save money."


  • New York Times: Sprint Settles Suits With Policy Shift and $50 Million. Excerpt: "In a legal settlement that may signal that the battleground for corporate reform has shifted to the courts, the Sprint Corporation said yesterday that it had agreed to several changes in governance, including how its directors are chosen and when its executives can sell shares." ... "In what he called a first for a big corporation, Mr. Monks said Sprint had agreed to ban its directors and senior executives from selling shares in Sprint while the company is buying back its own stock. Sprint did not mention the policy in either of the two news releases it issued yesterday. A spokesman declined to comment. 'They can't use company money to prop up the stock while they sell their own stock,' Mr. Lerach said. That agreement, he said, 'to me, is one of the most important parts of the settlement'."


  • Laborlaws.com: Information about At Will Employment. Excerpt: "It is estimated that 70% of American workers are subject to the at-will rule, as compared to approximately 15% who are union workers and 15% who are public employees. These groups of employees have historically enjoyed dissimilar levels of protection from wrongful dismissal. Those covered by collective bargaining agreements, employed in the public service, or working under written employment contracts for specific periods of time can usually be discharged only for cause."


  • Forbes: The Cost Of Conflict. Ten Best Employers For Reservists. "(IBM) pays differential between military and civilian pay for the duration of duty. Health Plan: Covers employee and dependents for the duration Life Insurance: Covers employee for the duration. Same policy applies to volunteer enlistees. Similar job guaranteed upon return.

 

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." — Franklin D. Roosevelt
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