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Highlights—November 24, 2012

  • The Australian: IBM Australia crashes on back of revenue failure. By Fran Foo. Excerpts: IBM Australia has recorded one of its worst quarterly results in its history, with profit plunging by 62 per cent on the back of a sharp decline in its money-spinning global technology services unit and a dispute with major client BHP Billiton.

    Staff at the technology giant who gathered for briefings last week were given a scathing assessment of the situation. IBM managing director Andrew Stevens didn't mince his words when he said "we were wiped out" in the third quarter.

    Employees were told that IBM had suffered a double-digit decline in key metrics and across all but one brand as the sales pipeline simply did not support revenue forecasts. ...

    In July, The Australian reported that IBM Australia had embarked on "Project Phoenix", a restructuring exercise that employees feared would cost about 200 jobs. Workers now say they are bracing themselves for more cuts.

  • WNBF News Radio (Binghamton, NY): Stealthy Holiday Layoffs at Endicott Interconnect Technologies. By Bob Joseph. Excerpts:Dozens of Endicott Interconnect Technologies workers have been laid off over the last few days in the latest round of downsizing by the decade-old company. Current and former employees have estimated about sixty people lost their jobs last Friday, less than a week before Thanksgiving.

    Those layoffs came a month after another sixty workers were laid off at the company, which occupies the site where IBM operated its massive Endicott manufacturing plant for decades. ...

    Endicott Interconnect Technologies was created just over ten years ago. The company was formed from the microelectronics unit jettisoned by IBM.

    EIT reportedly went into operation with 2,000 employees on November 1, 2002. Two weeks after that, 200 people — ten percent of its workforce — were laid off.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Issues message board: "Re: What Am I Missing? -- Retiree On Medicare" by "bertsirote". Full excerpt: what is FHA?
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Issues message board: "Re: What Am I Missing? -- Retiree On Medicare" by "thingsmoreharmfulthanmarijuana". Full excerpt: FHA is some acronym that applies only to a certain flavor of retiree. I retired in 2000 after 33 years and I always thought it has something to do with a mortgage or something. http://www.ibmemployee.com/Highlights040508.shtml mentions:

    Janet Krueger explains IBM's Future Health Account. Full excerpt: FHA = Future Health Account. It is a replacement to the promise of retirement health care benefits for those who were not within 5 years of retirement eligibility on July 1, 1999, but who were hired at IBM before Jan 1, 2003. (Those hired since then are promised nothing at all related to retiree medical care.) For each year of employment between age 40 and age 49, a virtual account is credited with some money on their behalf (I think it is $10,000, although my memory could be faulty), and relatively low interest credits are added to the virtual account each year. *IF* the virtual account is still in place when the employee reaches full retirement eligibility, then the retiree can use money in the virtual account to buy health insurance from IBM at whatever price IBM chooses to charge, for as long as the account lasts. Estimates have shown that in most cases the virtual account will be depleted after 3 or 4 years of retirement, at which point the retiree may continue to purchase health care insurance from IBM with real dollars.

    All of the documentation clearly states that employees never get a vested interest in the virtual accounts, and IBM can wave their wand and make them vanish at any time. Their is no trust account set up to accumulate money to back up these virtual accounts. The sad thing is, while employees covered by the FHA jealously look over the fence for greener grass, believing that current IBM retirees have it made, current IBM retirees are also being ripped off, as IBM has been doubling their co-pays each year since they started charging in January, 2000. Way too many IBM retirees now get a bill from IBM in place of their pension checks.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Issues message board: "Re: What Am I Missing? -- Retiree On Medicare" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: In 1999, IBM placed those employees who were not within 5 years of being retirement eligible into a new retirement medical plan called the Future Health Account.

    Under the old (prior) medical plan, IBM subsidizes the premiums up to $7000 a year for pre-medicare retirees and $3000 for medicare retirees.

    FHA retirees get no such subsidy. Rather, IBM contributes $2500 a year to a fictional "account" for the 10 years once they are age 40 until they are age 50. During this time, and after the contributions stop, the account earns a low interest rate (1.1% this year).

    Once retired, a retiree can use the FHA money only to pay for IBM health insurance premiums. After the money is gone, the retiree has to pay the full cost out of their own pocket.

    Those who joined IBM after Jan 1, 2004 get no money in their account, but can still purchase insurance through the FHA plan out of their own pocket.

    As a simple example, the premiums for the IBM Low Deductible PPO for self-only coverage are $5340 per year for a retiree under the prior plan, but $10,854 for a retiree under the FHA plan.

    During a typical retirement lifetime, I have calculated that the FHA will cost a retiree about $74,000 or more out of their own pocket than the old plan.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Issues message board: "Re: What Am I Missing? -- Retiree On Medicare" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: Employees within five years of earliest retirement eligibility on June 30, 1999, may have both the FHA and prior retirement medical plan. (See USHR 117 Section 1.1.1)

    This has created some confusion over on the IBM Pension group.

    There are several different retiree medical groups which include at least:

    1. Those retiring before 1992 on the prior retirement medical plan (no FHA).
    2. Those retiring after 1992 on the prior retirement medical plan without FHA.
    3. Those retiring after July 1, 1999, on the prior retirement medical plan with FHA.
    4. FHA-only retirement medical plan.
    5. Access-only retirement medical plan (no FHA dollars or all FHA dollars exhausted and not on #3).

    Is it any wonder that there is confusion?

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: FHA rates and letting your FHA run out" by "krissaun". Full excerpt: I got this information from the Employee Services Center when I called to find out why I did not have access to a no cost plan for retirees that I saw referenced in an IBM Benefits presentation. You can call them and confirm for yourself to be sure. But they told me that when the FHA was gone, I would then have access to a different set of plans and costs would be different. I have a friend with the same years as me but no FHA. Her plans cost half of what mine do. This was all a huge surprise to me, because everything I read before in this forum has always said to keep some money in your FHA.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: FHA rates and letting your FHA run out" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: 1. You are confusing apples and oranges. 2. Don't believe anything you hear from ESC unless it is in writing, and then beware of the weasel-wording explanations.

    If you use all of your FHA dollars, you can go on 'Access Only', which has the same plans as FHA, except that you pay the entire premium out of your pocket. THERE ARE NO FREE PLANS FOR THOSE ON FHA/ACCESS ONLY.

    If you decline coverage for any year on Access Only, you cannot get back into the plan in future years. That includes each of medical, dental, and vision. For example, if you dropped dental coverage for one year but kept medical coverage, you wouldn't be able to get dental coverage in the future, but you could get medical coverage, although you would have the pay the entire premium out-of pocket.

    By having some dollars left in FHA, you can drop coverage from IBM and still bet back in, as long as you maintained 'qualified' coverage elsewhere. That isn't true if you are in Access Only.

    Don't believe what you think you heard from Employee Services Center.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: FHA rates and letting your FHA run out"by "hankharty". Full excerpt:Some people are comparing apples and oranges. They are confusing the FHA plan with the prior IBM Retirement Plan.

    There are no free medical plans unless you qualify for the prior IBM Retirement Plan. To be covered by the prior IBM Retirement Plan, you must have retired from IBM before July 1, 1999, or were continuously employed by IBM for at least one year immediately prior to June 30, 1999, and within five years of their earliest retirement eligibility under the prior IBM Retirement Plan as of June 30, 1999.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Good place to start off” Former Administrative Assistant in San Jose, CA . Pros: Good name recognition. Good benefits. Cons: Too many layoffs of loyal employees. Outsourcing to save a buck when this was a US made company. Advice to Senior Management: Be there for your employees not just for yourself
    • If you are motivated and have an ability to quickly acquire new skills, you will succeed - if you can survive the travel” Current Managing Consultant in Chicago, IL. Pros: I had the opportunity to work on international projects, traveling to multiple locations around the world. My level of responsibility grew as I proved my ability to successfully deliver results. I gained experience managing teams and being responsible for project profitability. Co-workers generally intelligent and friendly. Cons: Travel is constant for GBS, so it can be difficult, especially with a family. Sometimes you have to take projects that are not ideal/interesting because of the need for very high utilization (time billable to client). Advice to Senior Management: Make it easier to take projects in different sectors - could improve overall utilization and help bring new ideas.
    • Running thin on the ground” Current Configuration Management in Sydney (Australia). Pros: Ability to get involved in technology. Working from home allows flexibility. Cons: Would not be happy if I were customer, knowing how thin resources are spread. Too process driven, sometimes overrides pragmatism. Pay rises unheard of. Advice to Senior Management: Work on strategy, as it all seems to point to cost reduction, rather than quality.
    • Amazing company, but conservative: requires patience” Current Software Engineer in São Paulo, São Paulo (Brazil). Pros: - Very stable job (except for consulting department GBS); - Excellent career management: know and keep track of your skills, plan your career; - Flexible hours. Cons: - Slow career progression; - Compensation & benefits much below market average; - Salary slightly below market average. Advice to Senior Management: - Pay for our coffee; - Let young people grow faster; - Share profit more.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert. Note: The Friday Alert was not publishes this Thanksgiving week.
  • InfoWorld: IT employment is still soaring, and so are bonuses. With unemployment in the IT industry at historically low levels, bonuses are up as employers scramble to fill open positions. By Bill Snyder. Excerpts: Not everybody in IT gets a bonus, but growing numbers of IT pros do, and those lucky folks will have a very nice chunk of change in their year-end pay stubs. Bonus payouts through the industry averaged $8,769 last year, and with IT unemployment at historically low levels, it's likely that bonuses will climb even higher this year.

    Bonuses aren't handed out because employers want to be sure Bob Crathchit and Tiny Tim have a great Christmas; they're a tool to attract and keep the best workers. The unemployment rate for technology professionals dropped in the third quarter to 3.3 percent, versus 4.2 percent in the same quarter a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and companies have been scrambling for talent for more than a year. ...

    For bonuses, experience counts. The tech industry loves to think of itself as a meritocracy, but the Dice report casts a bit of doubt on that assumption, at least when it comes to bonuses. Time in the field is a key factor in determining who gets a bonus. "The key threshold appears to be six years of experience. After that milestone, more than 50 percent of tech professionals told us they are bonus-eligible," says Alice Hill, Dice's managing director.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
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  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 11/20/12: -IBMGoat- 1st line managers have for the most part been a useless commodity since the mid 90's. 2nd lines were micro-managing them for more years than I can count. I retired 15 years ago and have never looked back. My last years there people were in such bad moods that even my 1st line manager would not acknowledge a good morning by me. 2nd line acted like he didn't know who I was. I still keep in contact with a couple of the people I worked with and they all have an 'I don't care' attitude because at some point in time they will also be let go. Several years ago 5 people were laid off and rehired several weeks later as contractors and told there was more than enough work to keep them busy for 5 years. -VA172-
    • Comment 11/21/12: Two weeks ago (Nov 5-9) 100 contractors were let go including at least some from the GDF Including Poughkeepsie. Last week an unknown number were let go, including Fishkill. Thanksgiving week has had none that I am aware of. I wonder if IBM off is laying us off slowly hoping nobody notices or to avoid the WARN act. Also managers are being insistent that PBCs were due Monday. People in Fishkill think an RA is coming by Nov 30th. -shep-
    • Comment 11/22/12: I envision that one day we will all watch how the demise of IBM was played out on an episode of American Greed. All of the buzz-word spewing, fake corporate idiots have their best interests in mind, not ours. All FTEs that come to this board to fuel the fires of panic and search for gossip about "WHEN" it will happen should re-channel that energy into doing something about it. Let's organize something. The first step is to Join. Grab a helmet and get in the game people. Together we can do something. -Ginni Madoff with my Pension!-
    • Comment 11/22/12: Would like to thank the Alliance for this website and efforts. Appreciated the posting comments. I only was with ibm for 18 months, never understanding why I was hired in the first place. Considering that I had 42 years of experience before coming onboard, I was never put on an assignment in my field, and spending most of my time on marketplace without any support trying to get my own work as an employee which I did do for 3 short term 'killer' assignments that nobody wanted. At 66 have been on UC/EUC for 7 months and just started a long term (hopefully) consulting assignment that I commute to. I wish everyone well and hope that rumored RA does not take place. -RA'DbyGBSinFeb2012-
    • Comment 11/22/12: Shep, last year PBC's had to be completed by the employees by the end of the 1st week of Nov and then we had to sign off on them before Dec 14th. Then the big RA hit in mid-Feb with an exit date of end of March. Who knows when the next big one will hit, but it is on the way no doubt. -2012 RAd IBMer-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • Washington Post opinion: Cheer up, Papa John’s. Obamacare gave you a good deal. By Ezra Klein. Excerpts: The health-care law’s treatment of larger employers is almost laughably complicated. If you’ve got fewer than 50 employees, nothing is asked of you, and if you’re willing to provide insurance for your employees, you get a giant tax credit, at least for awhile.

    But if you’re a business with more than 50 full-time employees, matters become considerably more complex. ...

    If you’ve got more than 50 full-time employees and you don’t offer them coverage and you don’t pay them enough to buy coverage on their own without using subsidies, then you have to pay $2,000 for each employee, except for your first 30 employees.

    If you’ve got more than 50 full-time employees and you offer some of them coverage but others have to apply for federal subsidies and buy coverage themselves, then you pay the lesser of $3,000 for each employee receiving insurance subsidies or $2,000 for each full-time employee, once again excluding the first 30 employees.

    Weird, right? But the complexities of this policy obscure a huge win for employers. In 1974, President Richard Nixon’s health-care plan proposed forcing employers to pay 75 percent of the cost of basic health insurance for their employees, though there would be some assistance for smaller businesses. In 1994, President Bill Clinton proposed forcing employers to pay 80 percent of the cost of basic heath insurance for their employees, though a somewhat confusing series of caps meant that smaller businesses would end up paying much less.

    In other words, both Democratic and Republican presidents used to think the proper role for business in the American health-care system was to pay most of the cost of their employee’s health-care insurance.

    Under the Affordable Care Act, the principle is different, and much less onerous: Employers don’t need to offer health care, and they don’t need to pay for most of the cost of their employee’s health care, but if their employees are taking advantage of public subsidies, then the employer should have to pay a penalty equal to about 1/8th the cost of the average employer-provided health-insurance plan. ...

    The health-reform law won’t reverse that trend, but for the businesses that are doing the most to drive it — the ones that have cut costs and boosted profits by paying their workers very little and refusing to offer them decent health insurance — the Affordable Care Act will force them to contribute a bit more toward their workers’ health care or raise their prices. And if they choose the latter route, then fine: It levels the playing field between them and their competitors who haven’t taken a low-road approach to paying their workers. That gives pizza companies that do pay their employees well a slightly better position in the marketplace than they have today.

    That won’t make Papa John’s feel better, and it shouldn’t. The Affordable Care Act isn’t helpful to their business strategy. Rather, it’s helpful to the business strategies of companies that have sought success by paying their workers good wages, giving them reasonable benefits, and delivering a higher quality product. Which should make us feel better.

    Still, Papa John’s can comfort itself with the knowledge that it is not being asked to do nearly as much as Presidents Clinton or Nixon wanted it to do. It doesn’t have to give its employees health care or pay them well. It just has to pay a small fraction of the cost that the public will pay to insure its employees. It’s not as good of a deal as the status quo, but it’s a better deal than it could have expected, or than it probably deserved.

  • Wall Street Journal: What's Next for Medicare? By Ellen E. Schultz. Excerpt: With the election behind us—and the fate of the Affordable Care Act now assured—many seniors are concerned about cuts in their Medicare coverage in 2013. Should they be? In a word, no. At least not yet.

    This fall has been an especially confusing time for Medicare beneficiaries and their families. The elections coincided with the annual Medicare enrollment period, during which insurers aggressively woo Medicare recipients to join their plans. The confluence of all these events has produced a deluge of information, misinformation and rumors about what is likely to happen next year.

    If you or your parents are concerned about radical changes, you can assure them that they can relax.

    Most people 65 or older have Medicare Parts A and B, which cover hospitalization and doctor visits. But they must choose a prescription drug plan (Part D), and they have the option of purchasing a supplemental plan, often called Medigap, that covers the 20% of costs that Part B doesn't pick up.

    They also can opt out of Medicare and sign up for a private Advantage Plan.

    You have until Dec. 7 to enroll or switch. Even if you already have made your decisions, the answers to the questions below could help you sleep better.

  • New York Times: Administration Defines Benefits That Must Be Offered Under the Health Law. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: The Obama administration took a big step on Tuesday to carry out the new health care law by defining “essential health benefits” that must be offered to most Americans and by allowing employers to offer much bigger financial rewards to employees who quit smoking or adopt other healthy behaviors. ...

    Insurance companies are rushing to devise health benefit plans that comply with the federal standards. Starting in October, people can enroll in the new plans, for coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2014.

    The rules translate the broad promises of the 2010 law into detailed standards that can be enforced by state and federal officials. Under the rules, insurers cannot deny coverage or charge higher premiums to people because they are sick or have been ill. They also cannot charge women more than men, as many now do. ...

    The rules lay out 10 broad categories of essential health benefits, but allow each state to specify the benefits within those categories, at least for 2014 and 2015. Thus, the required benefits will vary from state to state, contrary to what many members of Congress had assumed when the law was adopted. ...

    The new law seeks to protect consumers by limiting what they must pay for health care before insurers begin to pay. In the small-group market, these deductibles are limited to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for family coverage. However, the administration said that insurers could charge higher deductibles, if necessary, to hold down the overall value and cost of a plan, reflected in the premiums.

  • Washington Post: Millions will qualify for new options under the health care law. Most have no idea. By Sarah Kliff. Excerpts: After surviving a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election, the Obama administration’s health-care law faces another challenge: a public largely unaware of major changes that will roll out in the coming months. ...

    But because “Obamacare” has been so controversial, and its fate caught up in the presidential campaign, there has been little public discussion about the specifics of putting it into action. States such as Texas and Florida, where opposition to the legislation was strong, have been slow to embrace the law and critics have been loath to promote it. ...

    Seventy-eight percent of the uninsured Americans who are likely to qualify for subsidies were unfamiliar with the new coverage options in a survey by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners. That survey, sponsored by the nonprofit Enroll America, also found that 83 percent of those likely to qualify for the expansion of Medicaid, which is expected to cover 12 million Americans, were unaware of the option. ...

    Currently, 48.6 million U.S. residents lack health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 30 million will gain coverage. That would leave nearly 19 million uninsured.

    About a quarter of those are illegal immigrants, who aren’t eligible for the reform law’s subsidies. Two million, the CBO projects, live in states that will opt out of the Medicaid expansion.

    The rest, however, probably are eligible for new benefits. The CBO, for example, expects that nearly 6 million of those newly eligible for Medicaid just won’t sign up for the program.

  • Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company: Lifespan Calculator. Thirteen easy questions you can use to determine your life expectancy.
News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • The American Presidency Project: 177 - Proclamation 2062 - Thanksgiving Day November 21, 1933. By Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, 1933-1945. Excerpt: May we recall the courage of those who settled a wilderness, the vision of those who founded the Nation, the steadfastness of those who in every succeeding generation have fought to keep pure the ideal of equality of opportunity and hold clear the goal of mutual help in time of prosperity as in time of adversity.

    May we ask guidance in more surely learning the ancient truth that greed and selfishness and striving for undue riches can never bring lasting happiness or good to the individual or to his neighbors.

    May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all Nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all peoples to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the common bettering of mankind.

  • Smirking Chimp: Wall Street Finds a 'Third Way' to Plunder Our Wealth. By Richard Eskow. Excerpts: Gotta hand it to 'em: Those Wall Street guys are smart. They've already found two ways to plunder the nation's wealth for their own enrichment, and now they're working on a third.

    The first way? Identify and finance a wave of Democratic politicians who would join with Republicans in deregulating Wall Street. The second? Employ the same so-called 'centrist' Democrats, along with their Republican cohorts, to bail them out after they crashed the economy. That bailout continues, and the assurance of protection from being prosecuted for their criminal misdeeds.

    Now comes Wall Street's "third way" of hijacking the nation's wealth: it's trying to persuade Democratic supporters to support the dismantling of the social contract that has held our society together for 75 years. And it's using many of the same tactics -- and many of the same faces -- it used in its first two forays.

    If you liked Wall Street deregulation, an inequitable bank bailout, and a get-out-of-jail-free card for bank executives, you're going to love this.

    The Anti-Social Contract Movement. The goal is to cut the popular and successful programs they describe as "entitlements." Cutting Social Security benefits will reduce political pressure on the undertaxed wealthy, while creating new investment markets for Wall Street retirement funds. Directly or indirectly slashing Medicare and Medicaid benefits also reduces that pressure. It would be more effective, more humane, and more rational to reduce Medicare's costs by reducing the effects runaway greed at every level of our health economy - but that would be bad for their investments.

    For decades this effort has been heavily funded by Nixon Cabinet member turned hedge fund billionaire Pete Peterson, along with a number of other wealthy individuals and corporations. And they've never lacked for advocates in both parties, politicians who are eager for the attention and plaudits they'll receive while in office and the cozy sinecures as "committee chairs," "advisors," and board members they'll enjoy after retirement. Let's call this effort what it is: a billionaire- and corporate-funded "anti-social contract movement." And let's recognize it for what it is: the third wave in a movement to capture an ever-increasing share of our nation's wealth for a tiny group of people.

  • The Street: Twinkies Defense Is Private Equity's Pension Offense: Street Whispers. By Antoine Gara. Excerpts: The liquidation filing of Hostess Brands -- the maker of consumer fattening favorites such as Ho Hos and Twinkies - also means that Americans may soon gorge themselves on the company's massive pension liabilities.

    Hostess' liquidation -- just like the recent bankruptcies of well known companies like Friendly Ice Cream and Eddie Bauer -- raises the prospect that sophisticated private equity and distressed debt hedge fund investors are using courts to cast off unwanted pension obligations on U.S. taxpayers and put a losing investment back on the track. ...

    As part of Hostess Brands Friday liquidation filing, the company said it would terminate its pension, with roughly 2,300 employees in the company's single-employer plan falling under PBGC's guaranty, according to an agency statement. The company's larger multi-employer plan may also get some PBGC support, while potentially not needing a full guarantee because losses could be mutualized. ...

    The size of Hostess Brands employees claim to PBCG could also illustrate how big money investors are using the bankruptcy process to shirk financial obligations on a federal agency as a means to salvage or profit on an investment. ...

    The size of the near $1 billion union pension claim is likely, in part, because Hostess's hedge fund owners stopped contributing to the company's pension plan in August 2011, as a result of bitter labor negotiations and deteriorating finances. ...

    A look through the PBCG's claims list highlights scores of failed companies like Friendly's Ice Cream, Eddie Bauer and parts supplier Delphi Automotive (DPG_), which remain large investments of hedge funds and private equity firms after the agency absorbed pension obligations. ...

    Sun Capital's interest may very well underscore how private equity firms use PBGC guarantees to pave the way for profitable investments. In January, the Center for Economic Policy Research detailed how Sun Capital used Friendly's Ice Cream's 2011 bankruptcy to wipe 6,000 employee pensions from the company's books. In that deal, the PBGC accused the buyout firm of fraud.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Hostess closing" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: After Hostess emerged from its first bankruptcy in 2009, it was taken over by private equity funds. You know what they are - Romney gave them so much good publicity recently. The owners loaded the company up with over $800 million in debt. They paid out a huge dividend to themselves. And tripled the CEOs salary to $2.5 million for doing such a great job. Then later, they failed to make $100 million in payments to the workers' pension fund. Then wanted the unions to agree to large wage and benefit cuts.

    It's easy to blame the union for driving the company out of business. But when you dig further, you see that it was highly mismanaged. No, make that plundered by the private equity firms.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Hostess closing" by "glendalelabboy". Full excerpt: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/hostess-failed-hedge-funds-vs-164815209.html mentions: Here's how Kaplan (August 13th issue of Fortune) put the situation as of last summer:

    What the hedge funds want is some degree of capitulation from a union whose members will otherwise lose thousands of jobs in liquidation. If the hedge funds don't get it, they've concluded, the company isn't worth saving. Without the hedge funds' blessing, no Hostess turnaround is possible. Right now, according to sources with knowledge of Hostess's debt structure, Silver Point and Monarch each hold Hostess obligations with a market value of between $50 million and $100 million. Those sources also say each hedge fund probably paid somewhere between $125 million and $175 million for that debt. So even with losses to date, both hedge funds have ample skin in the game -- skin they'd like to get out of the game sooner rather than later. Of course, if the hedge funds again forgive sizable debt, they'll probably want sizable equity in return this time.

    Finally, there are the woebegone Teamsters. They have plenty of skin as well -- and feel as if they've been fleeced out of almost $100 million from Hostess after the company "temporarily" ceased making union pension contributions last August. That move by Hostess was a breach of its collective-bargaining agreement with the unions. The Teamsters' leadership has fulminated to its membership about the hedge funds in particular. "The financial folks make a living of feeding off distressed companies," Hall says. "They lose sight of the fact that there are real families with livelihoods at stake." At local unions across the country, the hedgies have become the devil incarnate.

    What happened next was just a mess. The CEO quit. The unions described the pay of the new CEO as "looting." Acrimonious would be a very mild term to describe relations between management and the unionized workers. One person familiar with the matter described it as "all-out war."

    See also: http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/07/26/hostess-twinkies-bankrupt/. This story is from the August 13, 2012 issue of Fortune.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Hostess closing" by "tkb01029". Full excerpt: While not a union proponent or Twinkies fan myself, I hardly feel that union leaders or labor issues are at fault here. Let's not forget that venture capitalists bought the company and leveraged it into bankruptcy. The investors walked away with a truck load of cash and now management says the union is the guilty bastard! Sorry, gotta side with the union guys on this. This reeks of Mitt Romneys' version of economics.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Hostess closing" by "pvsutera". Full excerpt: Indeed, 6 CEOs in 10 years, a mountain of debt, and a monotypic product set. And no doubt nice buyouts for each of those CEOs - And probably the most damning thing, which is that the company was taken over by the typical MBA approach - companies run by finance guys instead of companies run by people passionate about - baking and marketing products.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: Hostess closing" by "divaberyl". Full excerpt: You are so right on all points. It would be different if the corporate raiders didn't line their pockets BEFORE declaring bankruptcy. They got fat first and then required the workers to make sacrifices.

    This is the same garbage done in IBM. We lined the pockets of managers (usually 2nd line up) with options and we dumped/off shored work. The remaining employees got nothing - no raises, no options, no education, no awards. They needed to be thankful they were still on payroll. Eventually the perks for upline managers disappeared and only executives got options. I won't lie - that is when I woke up and fortunately was at least a 2nd choicer. I left because I didn't like being treated like crap and regretted treating employees that way.

    (I hope the Walmart workers strike a powerful blow this weekend. They are being treated like slaves.)

  • AlterNet: It's Simple: Cutting the Deficit Will Kill Jobs and Hurt Growth; Taxing the Rich Won't We've got to stop obsessing about the deficit. By Robert Reich. Excerpts: I wish President Obama and the Democrats would explain to the nation that the federal budget deficit isn’t the nation’s major economic problem and deficit reduction shouldn’t be our major goal. Our problem is lack of good jobs and sufficient growth, and our goal must be to revive both.

    Deficit reduction leads us in the opposite direction — away from jobs and growth. The reason the “fiscal cliff” is dangerous (and, yes, I know – it’s not really a “cliff” but more like a hill) is because it’s too much deficit reduction, too quickly. It would suck too much demand out of the economy.

    But more jobs and growth will help reduce the deficit. With more jobs and faster growth, the deficit will shrink as a proportion of the overall economy. Recall the 1990s when the Clinton administration balanced the budget ahead of the schedule it had set with Congress because of faster job growth than anyone expected — bringing in more tax revenues than anyone had forecast. Europe offers the same lesson in reverse: Their deficits are ballooning because their austerity policies have caused their economies to sink.

    The best way to generate jobs and growth is for the government to spend more, not less. And for taxes to stay low – or become even lower – on the middle class.

    (Higher taxes on the rich won’t slow the economy because the rich will keep spending anyway. After all, being rich means spending whatever you want to spend. By the same token, higher taxes won’t reduce their incentive to save and invest because they’re already doing as much saving and investing as they want. Remember: they’re taking home a near record share of the nation’s total income and have a record share of total wealth.)

    Why don’t our politicians and media get this? Because an entire deficit-cutting political industry has grown up in recent years – starting with Ross Perot’s third party in the 1992 election, extending through Peter Petersen’s Institute and other think-tanks funded by Wall Street and big business, embracing the eat-your-spinach deficit hawk crowd in the Democratic Party, and culminating in the Simpson-Bowles Commission that President Obama created in order to appease the hawks but which only legitimized them further.

  • The Christian Science Monitor opinion: A 35 percent tax rate is a number, not a principle. Republicans believe that the upper-income tax rate should not be raised. It's a line in the sand based on principle. True, low taxes is a principle. But the actual rate is relative, and must be flexible to avoid the 'fiscal cliff.' By Jim Sollisch. Excerpts: We’re about to find out if the Republican party is willing to commit political suicide over the idea that no person in America, no matter how wealthy, should ever pay a tax rate above 35 percent.

    Thirty-six percent? No way. Thirty-nine percent? Never. Give us 35 percent or give us death.

    Republicans believe that this line in the sand is based on principle. Our Founding Fathers enshrined several absolute rights into the Bill of Rights: the right to bear arms, the right to freely assemble, the right to exercise religious freedom. These are principles worth fighting for.

    Life begins at conception. That’s another principle. And I can understand anyone’s unwillingness to compromise on that. It’s not relative. But a top tax rate of 35 percent? Really?

    That’s not a principle – it’s a number. The principle underlying it is that lower tax rates stimulate the economy. And from almost any historical perspective, a top tax rate of 38 percent or 39 percent would be low.

    Back in 1945, the top tax rate was 94 percent. In the early Roaring Twenties, it was 73 percent. In the early 1960s, when the economy was growing at 5 percent annually, the top tax rate was 91 percent. And in the last big boom of the 1990s, it was around 40 percent. ...

    Even though the mood was collegial when leaders from both parties gathered at the White House last Friday, I’m still not convinced that Republicans are willing to leave their dogma at the door when the real negotiations start. And unless that happens, I worry that several meaningful questions that are the bedrock of the lower-taxes-create-jobs-theory won’t even be asked. Like what percentage of people making over $250,000 a year are actual job creators? I understand, at least in theory, that if you give a small business owner a tax break, she may invest more in her business and hire more workers. But at what rate? Does every $50,000 in lower taxes translate to a new hire?

    And how about all those lawyers, doctors, CEOs, and upper-management types who make well over $250,000? How do they use the income they keep from lower tax rates to create jobs? They aren’t direct job creators. The thinking is that they invest more money in the stock market, giving corporations more capital so they can hire more workers. Again, this is fine in theory. But the Dow has been over 13,000 for much of the last six months. Where are the jobs?

    In the 1950s, if you gave companies more capital, they built more plants and invested in more equipment. And that meant more jobs because they needed people to operate that equipment. Today, when companies have excess capital, they don’t always hire more workers. And if they build another plant, it may be off shore. ...

    The Republican Party needs to change more than its appeal to Hispanics and other minority voters. It needs to show the country that it can help solve our economic problems. I’m optimistic that as we approach the edge of the cliff, Republicans will find that the one principle they believe in – even more deeply than 35 percent – is political survival.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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