Congressional Testimony Validates Major Component of the MPS Action Plan

New congressional testimony validates a major component of the MPS Action Plan just weeks after AFM-EPF trustees dismissed the plan as “based on a distortion of facts.”
 
The AFM-EPF trustees are contemplating potential cuts of 25-30% to our existing pension benefits. MPS and Tom Lowman, one of the country’s leading actuaries, recently proposed a comprehensive Action Plan that could help the AFM-EPF for decades to come. The Action Plan included a three-year delay of benefit cuts, negotiating 6% increase in employer contributions for five years, then reverting to 2.9% per year over the next 25 years. We have shown that if the trustees execute our plan and raise employer contributions, much milder cuts could take place, and would not happen for at least three years. Unfortunately, less than 48 hours after we proposed the plan our trustees refused to even consider it. They state that our call for a three-year delay in benefit cuts is “based on a distortion of facts”and is “just empty rhetoric.”[1]However, recent congressional testimony debunks those statements by the trustees and proves that a growth target of 6% in employer contributions is, in fact, attainable. 

Trustees Call Class Action Lawsuit “Frivolous” but a Federal Judge Disagrees

As many of you know, Local 802 members Andy Snitzer and Paul Livant filed a class action lawsuit against the AFM-EPF trustees, charging them with breaches of fiduciary duty. Trustees Ray Hair and Tino Gagliardi repeatedly called the lawsuit “frivolous.” But the federal judge overseeing the case believes it is not frivolous, and on April 26, entered an order denying the trustees’ attempt to have the case dismissed. The case will now proceed with discovery and an eventual trial.

Trustees Call Class Action Lawsuit "Frivolous" but a Federal Judge Disagrees

As many of you know, Local 802 members Andy Snitzer and Paul Livant filed a class action lawsuit against the AFM-EPF trustees, charging them with breaches of fiduciary duty. Trustees Ray Hair and Tino Gagliardi repeatedly called the lawsuit “frivolous.” But the federal judge overseeing the case believes it is not frivolous, and on April 26, entered an order denying the trustees’ attempt to have the case dismissed. The case will now proceed with discovery and an eventual trial.

Great Start to the MPS Spring Fundraiser

The MPS Spring Fundraiser is off to an incredible start. We set a goal to raise $15,000 by June 1st. Thanks to your generosity and quick action we are well on our way to achieving that goal! 


But we still need your help to reach our $15,000 goal!!!


2018 is a crucial year. Your donations will go a long way in helping to secure a more certain future for our pension fund. As You know, we are an all-volunteer organization working on behalf of fellow musicians across the country. Every single dollar donated to MPS goes directly to protecting our pension. 

Thanks for a Great Meeting - Now MPS Needs Your Help!

MPS 2018 Fundraising Drive

 
Last summer we asked for your help and you overwhelmingly responded to our fundraiser. We reached our $15,000 goal in less than two weeks thanks to your quick action and generosity. That allowed us to hire one of the country's leading actuaries Tom Lowman. The MPS team now has a viable Action Plan thanks to our experts. This spring, MPS once again needs your help to advocate for that plan and many other initiatives in the coming months. 

MPS Response to AFM-EPF Trustees

It only took 48 hours after the Musicians for Pension Security national meeting on April 4th for the AFM-EPF Trustees to reject each and every proposal we made, casually brushing aside months of careful work by our team of experts. Rather than engaging in a dialogue concerning the positive and creative recommendations we made for lessening the impact of cuts to our pensions, cutting expenses, or reforming the board, the Trustees chose to question our motives and attack our all-volunteer organization that works on behalf of fellow musicians across the country. Read the letter the trustees sent to us on 4/6 here.

Trustees Investigate Cuts

AFM President Ray Hair hosted a “Webinar” for pension plan participants on January 29. When asked, President Hair and the other participants would not shed any light on the extent of the possible benefit cuts: “At this time, we just don’t know,” they said. Hair and the other trustees may not know exactly how extensive or when the cuts will happen, but according to their own documents recently obtained by MPS (linked below), it seems that they know far more about the potential for benefit cuts then they let on.

    UPDATE on the Butch Lewis Act

    Unfortunately, the Butch Lewis Act did not make it into the bipartisan budget deal the U.S. Senate passed last week. However, this is no reason to give up hope. As a compromise, a bipartisan House and Senate Joint Select Committee, led by Senator Sherrod Brown, will be tasked with coming up with a solution to the pension crisis by the last week of November 2018. You can read the details about the committee on his website here.
     

    New Court Filing Offers Play by Play Account of Trustees’ Decision Making

    On December 1, 2017, an amended complaint in the lawsuit filed by AFM Local 802 members Andy Snitzer and Paul Livant was filed in Federal District Court, Southern District of New York. For those interested in understanding what happened to our pensions, this court filing provides a play by play account, from 2009-2016, of the decision making by our trustees and fund administrator that led to the current state of our pension fund. It tells a story of poor investment decision making, attempts to time the stock market and payments, to multiple investment managers, of millions of dollars for little return.

    How the AFM-EPF's Investment Fees Actually Measure Up (Updated 12/17)

    As we know all too well, the trustees spin the facts, especially when assessing their own performance. Everything they say must be checked thoroughly. So, when the trustees recently made a major statement about how low the AFM-EPF’s investment fees are, we checked it out. And not surprisingly, we found their statement failed to tell the whole story. 
    In their December 9 email, they point out that their investment fees compare favorably with averages contained in a broad industry study performed by Greenwich Associates. Since the Greenwich Associates study is only available to high paying subscribers (and that does not include MPS), we thought we would simply compare the AFM-EPF investment expenses to the peer group in the entertainment industry.[1] In any event, we think the peer comparison provides a more accurate measurement than a broad, ill-defined industry study.
    We took the industry standard measurement, which is the ratio of investment fees[2] to assets under management. It turns out that AFM-EPF investment fees are 84.3% higher than the mean[3] for the entertainment industry peer group:

    AFM-EPF Trustees Find New Ways to Spend Your Pension Dollars

    Participants in the AFM-EPF Pension Plan have recently begun receiving e-mails from Geoff Garen, President of the well-known Washington DC polling and political strategy firm Hart Associates. They are offering $100 to musicians to participate in focus groups: “We believe the insights you possess and the experiences you have had would be extremely valuable to the Fund as it seeks to better understand the perspective of plan participants and to provide them with helpful and timely information about the fund.”

    MPS Analysis and Response to the 12/9 AFM-EPF Newsletter

    When our trustees sent out a letter one year ago in December of 2016 disclosing for the first time that it was quite possible that we could be facing cuts to our existing benefits as soon as spring 2017 there was a lot of confusion, unanswered questions, and shock. In the months following, when many AFM members looked to our elected leaders and trustees for help, information and a plan. It became clear that our elected leaders were not going to help and that we would have to deal with the pension crisis ourselves. A group of concerned musicians organized to address the ongoing pension crisis and founded Musicians for Pension Security. Our mission statement from the beginning has been clear and simple: We have come together in search of more information about the state of our pension and, ultimately, to demand more transparency and accountability from the AFM-EPF Trustees. With input and participation from plan participants across the country, we will be able to speak with one unified voice working towards a sustainable long-term plan for a secure pension.