Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner joined retired members of the St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island pension plan to propose new transparency requirements for pension plans managed by religious organizations.
Magaziner announced that he will seek legislation in the 2019 General Assembly session that would require pension plans managed by religious organizations in Rhode Island to send regular updates on the financial health of the pensions to their plan participants. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires most private pension plans to send members a letter each year outlining the health of their plan. Publicly managed pension plans like the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island are also required to publish key financial information each year in accordance Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) standards.
However, pension plans considered “church plans” under ERISA are exempt from both ERISA and GASB reporting standards, meaning that members of these plans often have no ability to access information regarding the financial health of their pensions.
An announcement from Magaziner’s office says more than 2,700 current and retired employees of St. Joseph and Our Lady Fatima hospitals are now facing unexpected benefit cuts due to the poor condition of their pension plan, and recent reports suggest that other church pension plans in Rhode Island may also be facing financial challenges. A lawsuit has been filed challenging that pension plan’s church plan status and funding.
“What the employees and retirees of these hospitals are going through is unacceptable,” says Magaziner. “All workers and retirees deserve to know the truth about their health of their retirement savings.”
Last month, Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed legislation aimed at helping members of the St. Joseph’s Health Services pension plan reach settlements in their multiple class-action lawsuits.