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Warnings about pension plan security on 40th anniversary of ERISA

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As the Employment Retirement Income Security Act turns 40, there are warnings about the security of pension plans from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and from the outgoing head of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Joshua Gotbaum.

Senator Wyden issued a statement recognizing ERISA’s anniversary and explaining that when President Ford signed ERISA into law, a “new level of security for Americans in retirement” was enshrined into law. Senator Wyden added, however, that, in today’s economy, “[i]t’s time to update our pension rules to help provide greater economic security in retirement – not less.” He said that as the Finance Committee “continues to work on comprehensive tax reform this fall, we will take a close look at pension and retirement rules in the tax code to make improvements wherever they’re needed.”

Later in September, the committee will hold hearings on retirement security.

Those hearings cannot come soon enough, given what Director Gotbaum said in an email on his last day at the PBGC. He warned that, “[a]bsent congressional action this year, multiemployer plans affecting millions probably will fail.” Moreover, he said, unless things change, more and more employers “will decide not to offer pensions, leaving responsibility for retirement security in the hands of individuals – who are often the ones least able to assure it.”