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Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers | [Ellen E. Schultz]

Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers

It’s no secret that hundreds of companies have been slashing pensions and health coverage earned by millions of retirees. Employers blame an aging workforce, stock market losses, and spiraling costs - a perfect storm of external forces that has forced them to take drastic measures. But this so-called retirement crisis is no accident. Award-winning investigative reporter Ellen E. Schultz reveals how large companies and the retirement industry - benefits consultants, insurance companies, and banks - have all played a huge, hidden role in the death spiral of American pensions and benefits.
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Publisher's Summary

It’s no secret that hundreds of companies have been slashing pensions and health coverage earned by millions of retirees. Employers blame an aging workforce, stock market losses, and spiraling costs - a perfect storm of external forces that has forced them to take drastic measures.

But this so-called retirement crisis is no accident. Award-winning investigative reporter Ellen E. Schultz reveals how large companies and the retirement industry - benefits consultants, insurance companies, and banks - have all played a huge, hidden role in the death spiral of American pensions and benefits. A little over a decade ago, most companies had more than enough set aside to pay the benefits earned by two generations of workers, no matter how long they lived. But by exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations, and new accounting rules, companies essentially turned their pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters, and profit centers.

Drawing on original analysis of company data, government filings, confidential memos, and more, Schultz uncovers decades of deception during which employers have exaggerated their retiree burdens while lobbying for government handouts, secretly cutting pensions, tricking employees, and misleading shareholders. She reveals how companies siphon billions of dollars from their pension plans to finance downsizings and sell the assets in merger deals; overstate the burden of rank-and-file retiree obligations to justify benefits cuts while using the savings to inflate executive pay and pensions; hide their growing executive pension liabilities, which at some companies now exceed the liabilities for the regular pension plans; purchase billions of dollars of life insurance on workers and use the policies as informal executive pension funds; preemptively sue retirees after cutting retiree health benefits and use other legal strategies to erode their legal protections.

This is a scathing exposé of one of the most critical and least understood crises of our time.

Ellen E. Schultz is an investigative reporter who has covered the so-called retirement crisis for more than a decade. Her reporting has led to congressional hearings, new legislation, and investigations by the Treasury and the Government Accountability Office. A former staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, she has won dozens of journalism awards for economics, financial, and investigative reporting, including three Polk Awards, two Loeb awards, and a National Press Club award. In 2003, she was part of a team of Wall Street Journal reporters awarded the Pulitzer Prize for articles on corporate scandals. She lives in New York City.

©2011 Ellen E. Schultz (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“For anyone seriously interested in the retirement industry - and that’s what it amounts to, an industry - this book should be required reading.” (New York Times)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Michael Tucson, AZ, United States 05-28-12
    Michael Tucson, AZ, United States 05-28-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Understanding the next financial crisis"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely. We have a coming retirement crisis as private pensions have been systematically drained of value and/or eliminated through mergers, or limited through conversion to defined contribution plans. How this latest iteration of vulture capitalism was aided and abetted by well-meaning, but poorly designed American pension laws is the subject of this excellent and very accessible book. It made me want to throw the book against the wall in anger several times: unfortunately, I listed to the audio version, so my iPhone bore the brunt of the righteous anger this book produced.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    the American pensioner


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Son-of-bitches stole my pension!


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven PHILADELPHIA, PA, United States 05-06-13
    Steven PHILADELPHIA, PA, United States 05-06-13 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Subject Under the Radar, Revealed Here"

    This is a well written, well researched book, about how many large corporations have rip-offed their workers retirement funds. The author Ellen Schultz is a former Wall St. Journal reporter, where some of this story is published. This lends credibility to her book, since WSJ has generally been a pro big business paper with an editorial staff that leans to the right.

    The laws defining retirement funds can be complicated, no matter how good the writing. So the book took an extra effort on my part to pay close attention, and I had to listen to a few parts twice. But it was well worth the effort. However, this book will require more effort on the listener, than a less dense subject like a breezy novel. So if you're looking for an easy read, or a distraction this probably isn't it.

    If you're a policy wonk like me you are probably aware that many well intentioned laws meant to protect workers and such are watered down by the federal and state bureaucracies that are supposed to administer them. - such is the case with retirement funds. This is the how and why of this book. I commend the author for making a difficult issue accessible and layering on a human touch. If you're concerned about this issue, this is the book to read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    christof Bakersfield, CA, United States 10-28-12
    christof Bakersfield, CA, United States 10-28-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Where's the beef?"
    What did you love best about Retirement Heist?

    This book is a must. Should be a required reading for anyone who wants to work. The fact that companies are allowed to touch the funds in a retirement fund is wrong!


    What other book might you compare Retirement Heist to and why?

    still looking.


    Which character – as performed by Nicole Vilencia – was your favorite?

    The naive folks in Congress.


    If you could give Retirement Heist a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Money burns a hole…Don’t trust anyone.


    Any additional comments?

    great work a must listen...Purchased the hard copy..

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin 06-19-14
    Kevin 06-19-14 Member Since 2014

    Trying to support 1) the comparably smaller non-fiction selection and 2) the few here that are not misinformation. Got mind? Use it.

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    "Absolute hidden gem!"
    What made the experience of listening to Retirement Heist the most enjoyable?

    Always pleasantly surprised when insightful non-fictions sneak into Audible.

    This book takes one segment of predatory Capitalism, the exploitation of employee pensions for CEO profiteering, and tears the issue wide open, exposing all sorts of criminal and psychopathic behavior benefiting a few and harming the masses.

    Not only is it a chilling expose, this book is highly-relevant. Who isn't affected by retirement and pensions?


    Any additional comments?

    Other related audio gems: "Predator Nation" (author directed "Inside Job"), "Treasure Islands" (offshore tax havens), "The Divide" & "Griftopia" (Matt Taibbi)...

    An easy, more personable starting point may be: "A Fighting Chance" by Elizabeth Warren.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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