<byline>By JoAnn Alix-Gagain<byline>
The retiree associations were informed on Wednesday by AT&T Global VP of Benefits Julianne Galloway that the company had closed a deal with Athene Insurance Company that will transfer over $7.6 billion in assets from the current pension trust. This sell off is known as “De-Risking” and has become more popular with companies around the country in recent years. It removes the liability to the company and shifts it to an insurance company that does not have to follow the same rules as a pension plan does, because it is now an insurance annuity.
If you are not notified of this change to you personally via email and or USPS that your pension is impacted you will continue to be paid out of the trust managed by Fidelity.
Your status of grandfathered or non-grandfathered as well as management or union has no bearing on this action by AT&T. It is solely based on amount of pension being received.
AT&T has stated that only retirees who have a pension of $2200 monthly or less will be moved to Athene. Pensioners who at the time of retirement selected the survivorship option are not included in this transaction even if their pension is in the $2200 range.
As retirees we have neither rights nor laws to prevent this transaction by AT&T. The protection of your pension will no longer be from the Pension Guarantee Fund nor protected under ERISA which is very disturbing in and of itself. The watchdog agencies for these types of insurance annuity companies are regulated by local states’ insurance commissions.
Additionally, any costs for your benefits, or reimbursements that are handled automatically from your pension check from Fidelity also had to be cared for during this transition. You had to set up payment with AT&T not Athene. Also should a “life change” (death, divorce etc.) happen after this transition has occurred you and or your survivors will need to notify AT&T/ Fidelity of the change as well as Athene.
Currently, there are no lump sum buyout offers coming to those who are impacted by this change but in the future that could be another possibility from Athene as that has also been a trend once a company secures the assets of a pension plan, they then begin offering sums to reduce the admin costs by buying out folks. Be careful should this come along in the future.