|LRO Board Spends Two Days Focusing on Pension
and Benefit Issues
The LRO Board met in Greensboro, NC on September 17 and 18, 2004 with its prime objective focused on ensuring the viability of the Lucent pension fund. This included gaining advice from a prominent ERISA legal authority as to what future actions might be taken on behalf of all retirees.
Board members were in agreement that the LRO’s first and overarching task is to protect the payment of pensions so retirees will never be faced with the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation taking over the Lucent pension plan.
Following this, and of relatively comparable importance, are Healthcare (including Medicare Part B reimbursements), Death Benefit restoration, and life insurance preservation.
Strategies reviewed to assure the continuity of the Defined Pension Plan included how to influence pension trustees, the outlook for gaining independent fiduciaries, the objective of forcing an independent audit of the pension trust, efforts to persuade Congress to enact retiree supportive legislation and the potential for legal action.
The Board examined three “what if” scenarios: (1) The Pension Plan continues as it current exists; (2) Lucent goes bankrupt, and (3) Lucent merges with or is taken over by another company.
The highly experienced ERISA attorney who met with the Board was obviously knowledgeable, experienced and ideologically committed to retiree issues.
He emphasized that the LRO can make real progress if it is persistent, builds its membership and alliances, and act selectively in the areas that are likely to be most productive. He stressed that a key step will be getting the right advice from knowledgeable experts and professionals. He covered all the issues of concern that the Board present to him and agreed to provide a written report to the LRO by October 1, 2004. His report will cover his proposals as to what should be pursued; by whom; and in what time frames.
Ken Raschke announced that he does not intend to serve another term as LRO president when his two years’ as president ends on January 1, 2005. The Board approved Ken’s nomination of Jim Breslin as his successor. Ken plans to remain as a member of the LRO Board.
Ken announced that Pete McCarthy has agreed to take on the responsibilities of Membership Director and will coordinate and work with the Regional Directors as necessary to increase LRO membership. The position will include the job of soliciting dues from existing and new members.
Eli Shaff, Vice President, gave a status report on the three proxy proposals submitted by LRO members that are pending with Lucent. The board approved a proposal to send letters to Lucent shareholder requesting their support of the proxies that make it onto the ballot at Lucent’s Annual Meeting in 2005.
Bob Janish, Treasurer, gave a presentation regarding the financial status of LRO and stressed the need to encourage members to pay their 2004 membership dues.
Bill Kadereit, Public Affairs Director, gave an overview of the legislative activities with which he has been actively involved. Bill has been working with the National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) on legislation important to retirees. He gave updates on HR1322, a bill to protect retirees’ health care benefits, and the recently introduced prescription drug importation bill.
Chuck Graves announced that he has a meeting scheduled later in September with a Yale professor who is highly knowledgeable about retiree pension and benefit issues.