US - Democrat representative George Miller has called for the public release of company filings on the financial health of their pension plans that are confidential under current law.
Miller, the senior Democrat on the House committee that oversees private pension law, said undisclosed data he and his staff had reviewed was “significantly worse” than other company filings that are available for public review.
The non-public summary data, compiled by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and provided to the education and workforce committee recently on request, has been reviewed only on a confidential basis by members and staff of the committee. The federal insurer is prevented by law from making the information public.
“We cannot and should not permit companies to file one rosier set of pension books for public review while secretly filing with regulators a second set of pension books in red ink,” Miller said. “We need transparency so that employees, investors and taxpayers are not in the dark on issues that affect their own financial future.”
Miller has written to committee chairman John Boehner, noting that the differences in the public and private filings were “dramatic” and sometimes “hundreds of millions of dollars - and in some cases billions of dollars - more optimistic than the confidential filings”.
He cited preliminary information provided by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that indicates that altogether companies disclose only about half of the pension underfunding that federal regulators calculate.
The confidential filings include information on 850 of the nation’s most underfunded pension plans.
Separately, Miller has requested that committee members be provided with a thorough analysis of how employees and companies would be affected by pension legislation expected to be unveiled shortly by Boehner before any action is taken on the bill later this month.
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