Guide to the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act

As you reach retirement age, you may become concerned for the protection of your pension benefits. Retirees who acquired benefits through a weakened multiemployer plan shared this concern several decades ago.

Because of their efforts, the government created an act to ensure the protection the pensioners were seeking. In 1980, the PBGC began enforcing this Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act (MPPAA) as a viable solution for upcoming retirees.

Through the establishment of this act, the PBGC enforced mandatory requirements for each multiemployer plan to follow as a means of securing benefits for retirees who had rightfully earned their pension funds. The act strengthened funding requirements, established withdrawal liability for multiemployer plans and established benefit adjustments for plans under duress. This guide provides you with an overview of the requirements outlined within the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act and how these requirements impact your pension benefits today.

Withdrawal Liability

Withdrawal liability was one of the primary requirements under the MPPAA. This regulation was set in place to assist multiemployer plans if an employee chose to terminate his or her participation in the pension plan. When this happens, the employers becomes vulnerable, and the withdrawal liability provides them with the financial stability they need to avoid further issues. If you are an employee who has chosen to withdraw from a multiemployer plan, you are still liable for the continuous funding of your portion of the plan.

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When withdrawal occurs, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) does not oversee the liability claims for the employee who has chosen to depart from his or her multiemployer plan. The plan itself must oversee the process of holding the employee accountable for the continued funding until the previously agreed-upon timeframe has been met.

Insolvent Plans

In addition to establishing withdrawal liability, the PBGC sought to establish insolvent plans to protect multiemployer plans if insolvency occurs. When this takes place, the plans must utilize the resource benefit level to meet their required payments for the benefits provided to pensioners. The resource benefit level is determined by the amount of assets the multiemployer plan has in place at the time of the insolvency.

Based upon the resource benefit level, the multiemployer plan must make all required benefit payments in a limited supply through these available assets. The less assets readily available, the less the plan can pay toward benefits for qualified pensioners. While this may seem as though it could become problematic if the assets are diminished, it is an established way for the multiemployer to be held accountable for the necessary benefit payments.

Avoiding Insolvency

Multiemployer plans can avoid insolvency by utilizing one of two potential steps. The plan can choose to fund new service benefit liabilities over a shorter amount of time or the plan provider may reorganize the entire plan to identify any potential financial difficulties. In undertaking either initiative, the multiemployer plan can avoid the prospect of becoming insolvent, which can lead to further difficulties for the employers and the participants buying into the plan each month.

Financial Assistance Provided by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

One of the primary benefits of the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendment Act (MPPAA) was the financial assistance stipulation overseen by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. If the PBGC is required to intervene with a multiemployer plan either due to insolvency or through plan termination, they assume responsibility for all benefit payments for paying participants. When either insolvency or termination occurs, the PBGC is required to offer a loan of assistance to the multiemployer having trouble.

Through this assistance loan, the PBGC ensures all paying participants receive their benefit payments within a timely fashion. Additionally, the PBGC assumes responsibility for the administrative fees of the plan itself to ensure all financial requirements are being met regardless of duress. The standards held within each financial loan of assistance varies depending upon the discretion of the PBGC, though the standards commonly include the following:

  • Loan repayment must be made by the multiemployer plan if the financial condition of the plan improves.
  • The benefits paid to participants can only be made at a guaranteed level—benefits paid beyond this threshold do not meet the requirements for the assistance loan.
  • The loan provided by the PBGC is collateralized by plan assets, withdrawal liability payments and employer contributions.
  • PBGC retains broad audit authority over the multiemployer plan seeking financial assistance.

The ideology behind the financial assistance loan was to establish stricter guidelines constituting the events that must occur to trigger an intervention from the PBGC when a multiemployer plan has become distressed.

Multiemployer Premiums

In addition to overseeing the financial liability for both the participants and the multiemployer plans, the PBGC instated multiemployer premiums under the MPPAA. As of 2013, premium multiemployer plans cost $12 per participant per year. The rate has increased steadily throughout the years in accordance with the wage inflation experienced throughout the United States. The rate is expected to continue growing in the future. As workers began to earn more money, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation adjusted the required payments needed for a multiemployer premium.

The rate you are required to pay for your multiemployer premium may be indexed based on the current wage inflation and how much you make per year at your current employer. You can consult with the PBGC directly to determine how much you are required to pay in the current year for your multiemployer premium rate. A PBGC employee can calculate the rate based on the wage inflation at the time of your inquiry.

An annual report is provided by the PBGC, which you can acquire through the corporation’s website. Once there, you can select an annual report from any year prior, beginning in 1974. Through the annual report, you can deduce the way the multiemployer premium is calculated, and you can expand your knowledge of the MPPAA in the process.

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