Sunday, September 18, 2005

Pensions, now you got one, now you don't

I'm opposed to capital punishment, but in this case, from today's NYT, it makes me wonder if I should be so certain. Here's Robert Miller, a corporate hero of the plutocracy who makes his living guiding companies to default on pension plans. Shed of it's huge pension obligations the troubled company now becomes an attractive acquisition target and is sold for huge windfalls for himself and other already rich fellow executives. Pockets stuffed with pension cash promised to retired workers, the insatiable, Grendel-like Mr. Miller moves on to another company to cancel pensions and cash in on the misery of loyal, long time employees.

Mr. Miller's actions should be a hanging offense.

Whoops! There Goes Another Pension Plan

ROBERT S. MILLER is a turnaround artist with a Dickensian twist. He unlocks hidden value in floundering Rust Belt companies by jettisoning their pension plans. His approach, copied by executives at airlines and other troubled companies, can make the people who rely on him very rich. But it may be creating a multibillion-dollar mess for taxpayers later.

As chief executive of Bethlehem Steel in 2002, Mr. Miller shut down the pension plan, leaving a federal program to meet the company's $3.7 billion in unfunded obligations to retirees. That turned the moribund company into a prime acquisition target. Wilbur L. Ross, a so-called vulture investor, snapped it up, combined it with four other dying steel makers he bought at about the same time, and sold the resulting company for $4.5 billion - a return of more than 1,000 percent in just three years on the $400 million he paid for all five companies.
The ghoulish Mr. Miller is still on the pension stealing job. Follow the link and see if your company is next in line.


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