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

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Overview

Winner of the 2012 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism Hundreds of companies have slashed pensions and health coverage for millions of retirees, claiming that a “perfect storm” of stock market losses, aging workers, and spiraling costs have forced them to take drastic measures. But this so-called retirement crisis is no accident. Ellen E. Schultz, an award-winning investigative reporter formerly of The Wall Street Journal, reveals how large employers and the retirement industry have ...

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

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Overview

Winner of the 2012 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism Hundreds of companies have slashed pensions and health coverage for millions of retirees, claiming that a “perfect storm” of stock market losses, aging workers, and spiraling costs have forced them to take drastic measures. But this so-called retirement crisis is no accident. Ellen E. Schultz, an award-winning investigative reporter formerly of The Wall Street Journal, reveals how large employers and the retirement industry have all played a huge and hidden role in the death spiral of American pensions and benefits.

A little over a decade ago, pension plans were fat. But companies used slick accounting and dubious loopholes to turn their pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters, and profit centers. As pensions weakened, companies slashed benefits for workers while doling out gargantuan pensions to their top executives. Drawing on original analysis of company data, government filings, and confidential memos, Schultz uncovers decades of widespread deception during which employers exaggerated their retiree burdens while tricking employees, misleading shareholders, and lobbying for taxpayer handouts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The retirement crisis is no accident, claims Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Schultz; large companies have played a significant role in its creation to protect the wealth of its top executives. When GE, IBM, Verizon, and others slashed pensions and medical benefits for millions of American retirees, they pointed fingers everywhere but at themselves—but who was really at fault? Pension funds were not bleeding the companies of cash. GE hadn't contributed a cent to the workers' pension plans since 1987, but still had enough money to cover all current and future retirees. Executive pensions at GE, with a billion obligation, are a drag on earnings. These are largely hidden, however, lumped in with the figures for regular pensions. Schultz's methodical cataloguing of these abuses paints a highly unflattering picture of companies that cut benefits to boost earnings, lay off older workers who are entering the years in which their pensions will spike, inflate retiree health benefits to boost profits, lobby for laws that keep the system inequitable, hoard death benefits, and fire whistle-blowers. Heartbreaking stories of destitute seniors are juxtaposed with the obscene surpluses in pension funds for executives ( billion at GE; billion at Verizon; billion at AT&T)—and unless the global retirement industry is reined in, Schultz points out, it will continue to capture retirement wealth earned by many to enrich a relative few, and within our lifetimes, "retirement" will inevitably revert to what it was in the 1930s and before. A fascinating, troubling exposé and a sobering call to arms. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews

A blistering examination of corporate greed and avarice.

Readers are no stranger to the grumblings of their corporate overlords: Pensions are untenable; health-care costs too high; retiree benefits hurt competitiveness. But according to Pulitzer Prize–winning Wall Street Journal reporter Schultz, employee pensions actually make money for corporations, and the funds diverted from them help feather the beds of multi-millionaire executives. She exposes all this and more in a rapid-fire narrative. Individual stories of retired men and women (some with more than 40 years of service) robbed of their nest eggs put a human face on the proceedings. The extent of corporate obfuscation is nearly incalculable, but the author does a stellar job breaking it all down, succeeding where regulators, lawyers and members of Congress have failed. Schultz's debut is a significant call to action, and ignoring her findings would be inadvisable. Her story of a minivan full of diabetic and cancer patients forced to travel more than 100 miles just to have their day in court should alone be enough to spur new reforms. Schultz unleashes an undeniably powerful and penetrating look into corporate money-making machinations and the havoc inflicted on rank-and-file employees.

Essential reading for anyone who works for a living.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591845652
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 345,756
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

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, proposed legislation, and investigations by the Treasury and the GAO. Schultz, a former staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, 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, Schultz 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.
Visit www.RetirementHeist.com

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

    Amazing i AMAZING, Informative, and sad

    That people raise children that become cogs and leaders in the schemes exposed in this book. It is sad how little it costs to buy a governent officials vote. Organized crime runs the country.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 3, 2012

    A superb and well-researched book; disturbingly true, read & learn.

    Next time you read a news report that ¿the company is being crippled by legacy pension & healthcare costs¿ then you will understand the fraud, theft, lies and management greed behind that claim. Millions of blue & white collar workers are having their justly-earned futures stollen to make fortunes for a few elite executives, but almost nothing is being done about it. My only complaint is that there was not more. Quite an education. Note: Should have purchased in the traditional format, so that I could pass the book on to others, or give as a gift, with no weird digital restrictions.

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  • Posted November 19, 2011

    Extremely Revealing!!!

    This book was extremely revealing for me. It uncovered some of the major reasons for our economic failures in the area of retirement funding. This is major for those who wish to understand the truth behind the current economic conditions.

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  • Posted November 19, 2011

    Fascinating Read

    Required reading for anyone wanting to know how corporations go about cheating former employees out of promised pension and health care benefits through a system of accounting gimmicks, legal maneuvering and out right lies. And how they go about funding their massive deferred compensation packages.


    This is not an easy read, but well worth it. The author takes you through some areas (notably accounting practices) that some may not understand or want to take the time to understand. But if you have ever worked in corporate America many subjects will hit home and you might understand deeper motives behind what is happening now (most notably the efforts to destroy collective bargaining).

    Check this book out. I thought I couldn't get any angrier at the current state of affairs. I was wrong.

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    Posted November 6, 2011

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    Posted October 21, 2011

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    Posted May 20, 2012

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    Posted November 16, 2011

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    Posted October 29, 2011

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