Lucent Retirees Organization (LR0)
Board of Directors meeting
Jacksonville, Fl October 23,24, 2019
The LRO Board met as outlined above in Jacksonville, FL on Oct 24. Directors Present: Joseph Dombrowski, Robert Janish, Danial Lovatt, Richard McCauley, Frank Minter, Gary Reichow. Director Absent due to health issues: Andrew Guarriello
The meeting was opened at 8:35am by President Joseph Dombrowski. Joe summarized the prepared agenda and it was agreed by all that appropriate issues were being addressed.
Update of Status of IRS Section 420 transfers (Transfer of excess Pension assets to retiree health and Insurance Accounts): A change in the limit associated with the distribution of surplus Pension Assets has been proposed to allow the transfer of pension assets above 110% of obligations to retiree health or insurance accounts. The current limitation is 120% of obligations .This legislation is being aggressively pursued by Nokia as a means of dealing with the currently underfunded Group Life Insurance Trust (GLI). The LRO, NRLN and other groups are supporting these efforts. Lowering the threshold to 110% of assets from 120% would give Nokia the flexibility to deal with the current GLI trust shortfall.
Lobbying efforts by Nokia and the NRLN indicate there is support for this change with legislation pending. The LRO has been pursuing this Group Life Insurance funding issue with Alcatel -Lucent and now Nokia for several years, promoting the importance given the loss of the Death Benefit (one year salary to surviving spouse previously paid out of the pension fund but discontinued in early ’90’s).
This is the last item where the LRO can have a very positive impact for our retiree base. This action is now in the hands of lobbyists, Nokia and our legislators. It is the opinion of the LRO Board that regardless of congressional action, if Nokia’s pension assets remain above 120% at year end, Nokia will transfer a portion or all of the excess to the GLI trust. This should extend funding for another 2 years beyond the current asset level.
Prior to getting into the specifics of dissolution, the board reminisced a bit about LRO accomplishments and contributions to our retirees over the years. The following were some of the specific areas of impact:
LRO Contributions to our retirees.
- Communication - The LRO website and newsletters kept our retirees in the loop on issues of importance to our retirees. On legislative issues, we partnered with the NRLN to work issues affecting our retiree base. We also provided information and support to retirees on company benefit issues. Our team of pension and healthcare experts offered analyses of complex pension funding data and assisted retirees with specific healthcare or other benefit questions. Our newsletter with the History Corner articles tried to keep our shared legacy alive, writing of accomplishments of the Bell Labs and of our many historic factories and service centers. We also periodically hosted retiree meetings at population centers across the country to update retirees on key issues like the recent pension buyout program.
- Established relationships with key Lucent and Nokia Human Resource executives. The LRO met annually with Mr. John Hickey, Human Resource, V.P. to lay out retiree concerns over pension funding, healthcare, and other benefit issues. In the early ’90’s with Lucent in financial difficulty and pension funding levels dropping into the 80% range, LRO continued to press for adjustments in pension funding allocations more toward fixed income devices with less in equities to help avoid large market losses. The pension plan is now fully funded. Relationships have been established whereby day-to-day phone calls between LRO and Nokia executives have become a commonplace event.
- The LRO supported the unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn the cancellation of the Death Benefit by Lucent. This issue was pursued to the appellate court level with a court ruling that the Death Benefit was a “Welfare benefit” at the discretion of the company, in spite of the many Company publications announcing the Death Benefit of one year’s salary to a spouse as an earned benefit funded in the pension plan.
- Recovery of health care dollars for retirees. In the early 2000 period, LRO supported a lawsuit charging Lucent with mishandling of certain medical charges which resulted in a large percentage of our members receiving a payout worth several hundreds of dollars.
- The LRO has played a major role in pressuring Nokia to take steps to properly fund the GLI Trust. As written above, we believe Nokia is on a path to deal with that issue.
- National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) - The LRO has been a major funder of the NRLN in support of retiree legislative issues and has provided individual leaders for that organization.
We, the board, are proud of the many hours of volunteer service to our retirees, but now see the major issue of pension funding behind us. We have done all that we can and now with an aging board it is time to come to an end, though you will be hearing about an NRLN/LRO chapter to carry out most of the support activities of the current LRO
Dissolution of the LRO
The primary focus of this board meeting was to go over the plan for dissolution of the LRO. While we have shared with our membership that we were studying dissolution, this meeting was our first to directly establish a plan. Dissolving a 501C5 organization like the LRO is a complex undertaking with specific guidelines provided by the IRS and the State of New York where we are incorporated.
Director Bob Janish, laid out the specific documents, steps and time-line required by the IRS and the State of New York to complete the dissolution process. A key event will be a final meeting of the membership to vote to approve the plan of dissolution now scheduled for March 25, 2020 in Dallas, TX., a location where the LRO Board has held the majority of their meetings. All members will receive a formal invitation to this planned meeting sometime in January, assuming we are able to gain approval from the State of New York of our plan of dissolution. A key part of that plan has to do with the final distribution of LRO residual assets.
Considerable time was spent discussing just how we should distribute those assets. Directors unanimously agreed that as we phased out the LRO we did not want to abandon our retirees. It was concluded that the planned NRLN/LRO chapter would be a worthy organization to support, assuming we can gain concurrence from the NRLN that the chapter would take on the communication and support functions for our retirees on pension, healthcare and other benefit related questions. That would require the chapter to maintain relations with key NOKIA representatives.
President Joe Dombrowski committed to schedule a meeting with Mr. Bill Kadereit, President of the NRLN, to formalize a support agreement with the proposed NRLN/LRO Chapter. If that agreement is attained, the board is proposing to dedicate a portion of its residual assets to that organization. Further discussions on how we might best serve the needs of our retirees led us to consider heath concerns of retirees that often afflict seniors. The thought was to donate a proportionate share of the remaining balance of residual funds to organizations addressing healthcare research and treatment of critical diseases, and a small portion to a recognized charitable group. The board unanimously approved this approach.
The Board approved unanimously the plan of dissolution prepared by Bob Janish, and thanked him for his work in researching State of New York and IRS requirements. All board members expressed their pleasure to serve our retirees interests over the years and the hope that our retirees are appreciative of those tireless efforts on their behalf.
We look back with pride at visionaries like Ken Rasche, our first president, who at a time of distress for Lucent did most of the recruiting of executive talent to run the organization. It has been our pleasure to serve you over the years since our founding in 2003.
Joseph Dombrowski, President, Lucent Retiree Organization (LRO)