Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...
By Sean Forbes
Aug. 2 — Attempts to save struggling multiemployer pension plans could be halted by proposed rules issued by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, according to the grocery-chain Kroger Co. and a coalition of food and dairy companies.
The proposed rules (RIN:1210-AB31) are intended to help plans that are in “endangered,” “critical” or “critical and declining” status to merge with or transfer their assets to healthier plans to prevent—or, in some cases, merely postpone—insolvency.
The rules would “prevent mergers and transfers that are in the best interests of plan participants and that lessen the risk to the PBGC for guaranteed benefits,” the Cincinnati-based company said in its July 28 comment letter to the PBGC.
Venable LLP, on behalf of the Association of Food and Dairy Retailers, Wholesalers and Distributors, echoed Kroger's comments in a separate letter. The association's members include Aramark Corp., ConAgra Foods Inc., Kellogg Co., Kroger, Supervalu Inc. and several other companies.
The agency’s proposal is a product of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, which gave the PBGC the authority to aid plan mergers once the agency determines a merger will benefit the participants of a plan without harming the participants and beneficiaries of the healthier plans involved. Kroger is a member of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, which lobbied for the MPRA. The food and dairy association also supported the MPRA.
The MPRA also introduced the term “critical and declining” status to describe the plans most at risk of collapse. A plan may be considered to be in this status if it’s projected to become insolvent within 15 years, or 20 years if the inactive-to-active participant ratio is more than two to one or if the plan is less than 80 percent funded. Plans in this status may cut benefits for certain retirees, including those in pay status, subject to certain limitations.
Under the proposal, a merger or transfer is allowed only if each plan that exists after the transaction isn’t reasonably expected to be insolvent. The requirement can be met by either a general test or a plan solvency test.
Under the latter, plans that are “significantly affected” would need to have assets after the merger or transfer that:
The definition of significantly affected plan also would apply to endangered or critical status plans that engage in non-de minimis transfers.
The proposal suggests that an endangered or critical plan in a proposed transfer could meet the plan solvency test, Kroger said. However, plans with a projected funding deficiency wouldn’t be able to meet the test “as a practical matter,” Kroger said.
Kroger suggested the PBGC add a provision to the proposal to permit mergers and transfers involving struggling plans that can’t meet either of the two proposed tests, but which would:
To contact the reporter on this story: Sean Forbes in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at email@example.com
The Kroger comment letter is at http://src.bna.com/fwK.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)