Click here for a short summary of the issue. Click here for a detailed timeline.
See also the Pension Rights Center website.
Click here for ex-St. Peter's CEO John Matuska's 2011 letter to the IRS.
Click here for ex-St. Peter's VP of HR Bruce Pardo's 2011 letter to the IRS.
Haga clic aqui para verun resumen del problema en español.
Friday, May 31, 2013
The IRS wants to hear from Plan participants, beneficiaries, and other "interested persons." Your comment must be received by the IRS by June 28, 2013 to be considered. Please tell your fellow retirees and employees about this opportunity, and pass along this blog's web address. The volume of comment letters received will mean a lot.
We have provided the templates in different file formats for compatibility with most word-processing software. If you have problems, please try another format; if problems persist, please post a comment and we'll do our best to help. You can access the letter templates here.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
The suit is the most recent of four very similar suits brought since late March against non-profit hospital systems by the law firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Keller Rohrback LLP alleging a collective funding shortfall of over $2.1 billion. Like the other suits, the Saint Peter's suit claims that the hospital system is not entitled to claim the church plan exemption under ERISA, since the Retirement Plan fails the eligibility criteria specified in ERISA as amended in 1980: it was not and is not maintained by a church or a church pension board, as defined in the law. The suits challenge prior rulings by the IRS and Department of Labor that have allowed organizations which do not meet the ERISA criteria, but have some connection to a church, to claim church plan status. There is much more background on all four cases in this excellent summary.
Cohen Milstein and Keller Rohrback are well-known and respected in the field of ERISA law, and we trust they will competently handle the case on our behalf – all Plan participants and beneficiaries are members of the class.
Saint Peter's sent a letter to Plan participants on May 17 referencing the suit, twice calling it meritless and "fundamentally wrong," and repeating the claim that the Plan has never been an ERISA plan and has always been a church plan, because their consultants and attorneys say so. We note too that in the hospital's April 24 letter, they claimed they would issue a Summary Annual Report for the Plan in the third quarter 2013. The hospital stopped issuing such reports, mandated by ERISA, since first claiming church plan status in 2006.
This suit does not mean we as Plan stakeholders should not take advantage of the very real opportunity afforded by the hospital's re-application for church plan status – to contact the IRS by June 28 and explain why the Saint Peter's Plan should not be ruled a church plan. We will follow up very soon with more info to make our case to the IRS and others who can help. In the meantime, please get in touch with your fellow employees and retirees, and ask them to watch this blog for updates.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
A Class Action Complaint has been filed against Saint Peter's Healthcare System by Laurence Kaplan, on behalf of himself, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated. This lawsuit is brought on behalf of Plan participants who are covered by the original Defined Benefit Plan, which the Healthcare System is trying to convert to a Church Plan.
The complaint has been filed to convince the Court that our Plan should remain covered by ERISA with all of the benefits and not be changed to a Church Plan. Within the complaint are many reasons which describe why the Healthcare System is not entitled to change the Plan to a Church Plan. I cannot go into detail, but the complaint clearly covers the technical reasons for this change not to happen.
Our attorneys are a Nationally known firm based in Washington, D.C. and are handling this case on a contingency basis, so there is no money that we have to pay them at any time. Their fee will be determined by the Court, if the case is won, and will be ultimately paid by the Healthcare System. If we lose, the firm will not be paid by anyone, but will have put many man hours working on this complaint for our benefit.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The letter attempts to downplay the significance of the new Notice:
The first Notice stated that a ruling was requested for the plan year beginning January 1, 2006 (the year the application to the IRS was filed). The Notice should have stated that the ruling is requested for the Plan Year beginning January 1, 1974. This is the only change from the first Notice you previously received. The corrected date does not impact your rights under the Plan.The change from 2006 to 1974 appears to be the only difference between the two notices, but this notice in effect amounts to a re-application to the IRS. Perhaps most importantly, the new Notice opens a new 60-day window for stakeholders to send comment letters to the IRS. Since the Notice was distributed on April 29, the new comment window extends until June 28, 2013. We will soon update this blog with much more information, including comment letter templates to help participants effectively communicate their concerns to the IRS.
In related news, a rare and stunning victory: in late March the IRS overturned their 2003 decision to award "church plan" status to Hospital Center at Orange, rescuing the fund just as it was running out of money. It was this case that compelled the IRS to institute the moratorium that held up Saint Peter's application for "church plan" status from 2006 until late 2011, and to require that the participants be notified of the application. In short, they are the reason we get this chance to fight for our pensions, so we celebrate their victory. This New York Times article about the win mentions our pension plan and links to this blog. We welcome the exposure, and strive for a similar win!