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PBGC Blog: Retirement Matters

Case Study — Furniture Brands Retirement Plan

Often times, mergers and acquisitions happen while employees, both current and past, miss the memo. Mergers and acquisitions are both an aspect of corporate strategy, corporate finance and management dealing with the buying, selling, dividing and combining of different companies and similar entities that can help an enterprise grow.

By now you may be asking what all of this means and how it affects you. Well, we're glad you asked.

Today we announced that PBGC moved to terminate the Furniture Brands International Inc. pension plan. PBGC is stepping in because the company plans to sell the majority of its assets in bankruptcy and the buyer isn't assuming the pension plan.

While you may not realize that the company you work/worked for was previously bought out by Furniture Brands, this bankruptcy case can possibly affect your pension.

If you were ever employed by companies under the Furniture Brands umbrella, this news is for you.

See the full PBGC News Release and the list of pension plans acquired by Furniture Brands International Inc.

PBGC will pay retirement benefits for over 4,100 current and future retirees of Journal Register Company, a leader in local news and information in 10 states.

The agency stepped in because Journal Register Company and its subsidiary Journal Register East, Inc. (plan sponsor) filed voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on September 5, 2012. The companies sold the majority of their assets in bankruptcy proceedings and the buyer did not assume the company's single-employer pension plan.

PBGC will pay all pension benefits earned by Journal Register retirees up to the legal limit of about $56,000 for a 65-year-old.

Retirees will continue to get benefits without interruption, and future retirees can apply for benefits as soon as they are eligible.

According to PBGC estimates, the Journal Register pension plan is 51 percent funded with $91.5 million in assets to pay $177.7 million in benefits. The agency expects to cover the $86.2 million shortfall.

For additional information, please email us at mypension@pbgc.gov or call 1-800-400-7242 (8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, Monday – Friday) (TTY/ASCII: call 1-800-877-8339 and ask to be connected to 1-800-400-7242).

Maximum Yearly Guarantee. 2012 $56,000. 2013 $57,500. 2014 $59,320.Beginning in 2014, the maximum yearly guarantee for a 65-year-old retiree will be almost $59,320 – a 3.2% increase from the $57,500 rate in 2013.

Most retirees who get their pension from PBGC – almost 85 percent according to a 2006 study  – receive the full amount of their promised benefit. In some cases, retirees can receive more than the PBGC maximum guarantee.

The PBGC maximum guarantee is based on a formula prescribed by federal law. Yearly amounts are higher for people older than age 65 and lower for those who retire earlier or choose survivor benefits.

If a pension plan ends in 2014, but a retiree does not begin collecting benefits until a future year, the 2014 rates still apply. For plans that terminate as a result of bankruptcy, the maximum yearly rates are guided by the limits in effect on the day the bankruptcy started, not the day the plan ended.

The increase is not retroactive and applies only to single-employer pension plans. The maximum guarantee limit for participants in multiemployer plans is $12,870 with 30 years of service, which has been in place since 2001.

For more information, see PBGC's Maximum Monthly Guarantee Tables or a previous blog post "Making Sense of the Maximum Insurance Benefit."

Pennfield Corporation logoPBGC will pay retirement benefits for nearly 580 current and future retirees of Pennfield Corp., an animal feed mill based in Lancaster, Pa.

The agency stepped in because Pennfield sold the majority of its assets in bankruptcy proceedings to agribusiness giant Cargill, Inc. Cargill did not assume responsibility for the pension plan.

PBGC will pay all pension benefits earned by Pennfield retirees up to the legal limit of about $56,000 for a 65-year-old.

Retirees will continue to get benefits without interruption, and future retirees can apply for benefits as soon as they are eligible.

According to PBGC estimates, Pennfield's plan was 54 percent funded with $15 million in assets to pay $28 million in benefits. The agency expects to cover the entire $13 million shortfall.

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Message to HCTC Participants

  |   October 2, 2013

As we've previously mentioned on Retirement Matters, PBGC is not affected by the federal government shutdown. If you count on us for your pension benefit, you will be paid on time.

However, if you get your health care coverage through the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC) Program, you may be affected by the shutdown.  If you participate in the HCTC Program, please read the following message from the IRS HCTC Stakeholder Engagement Team:

10/1/13 - The IRS HCTC Program is operating with a significantly reduced staff and capacity during the current government shutdown. The HCTC Program will mail invoices and make payments to health plans for current Monthly Participants.  Please be sure your payment is received by the due date listed on your HCTC invoice. If you do not receive an invoice, please refer to a previous monthly invoice for your HCTC account number and consider making an online payment. You can also obtain a blank payment coupon on this website.

The HCTC Customer Contact Center will be closed.  If you have a health coverage or payment-related emergency you can call and leave a message at 1-855-379-0440; however please note that not all callers leaving a message at this number will receive service. This mailbox is being used to provide limited service to current monthly HCTC Participants only, who are facing an emergency health coverage or insurance payment issue.  We apologize, in advance, for our inability to provide greater service at this time. Thank you for your understanding.

When the federal government reopens, the HCTC Program will resume regular processing of all Registration Forms, Family Member Registration Forms, and Reimbursement Request Forms received by the October 1st cutoff for processing in advance of the 1/1/14 expiration of the Health Coverage Tax Credit.

Please note that PBGC does not have further information about HCTC coverage. If you have a question, please call the HCTC Customer Contact Center and leave a message at 1-855-379-0440.

Photo: PBGC Director, Joshua GotbaumShould the government shutdown, PBGC will stay open for business. All of us at PBGC—federal employees and contractors—will remain on the job. We will continue to pay benefits to the retirees who depend on us, to do our other work, and to honor our obligations.

This is not new. PBGC stayed open throughout the government shutdowns in 1995-96. That's because PBGC is different from most government agencies: Our funds are paid for by insurance premiums and plan assets, not taxpayer dollars.

As always, PBGC regards it as especially important to continue to do our work well, diligently, and with the dedication America's workers and retirees deserve.