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News & Policy

PBGC to Assume National Refractories Pension Plans

January 13, 2003

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) today announced it will assume responsibility for six pension plans that cover nearly 1,100 employees of Livermore, Calif.-based National Refractories & Minerals Corp. and its Chicago Fire Brick and Wellsville Fire Brick affiliates. The companies produce heat-resistant brick used in the steel, glass, cement and hydrocarbon processing industries.

"PBGC is stepping in because the companies are liquidating and the pension plans face imminent abandonment," said PBGC Executive Director Steven A. Kandarian. "Because of PBGC's guarantee, retirees will continue to receive their monthly checks up to federal limits on insured benefits. Other covered workers will receive basic pension benefits when they are eligible to retire."

The six pension plans, with combined assets of $23 million and benefit liabilities of $33 million, are underfunded by $10 million according to PBGC estimates. The agency will take over the assets and use its insurance funds to pay guaranteed benefits earned under the plans, which terminate as of January 14, 2003. Affected are National Refractories' Columbiana, Mexico (Mo.), Building Trades, and Moss Landing pension plans, and the Chicago Fire Brick Employees and Wellsville Fire Brick pension plans.

Under federal pension law, the maximum pension guaranteed for workers in plans that terminated in 2003 is $3,664 a month (or $43,977 a year) for persons retiring at age 65. Maximum guarantees are adjusted for retirees older or younger than age 65 and for those who choose survivor benefits. Temporary benefit supplements for early retirees and certain portions of recent benefit improvements are not covered by PBGC.

Workers and retirees do not need to take any action. Pension plan participants who have questions about benefits or who wish to retire may contact PBGC's Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-800-400-7242. For TTY/TDD users, call the federal relay service toll-free at 1-800-877-8339 and ask to be connected to 800-400-7242. Information about PBGC's pension insurance program also may be found at

PBGC is a federal corporation created under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. It currently guarantees payment of basic pension benefits earned by about 44 million American workers and retirees participating in over 35,000 private-sector defined benefit pension plans. The agency receives no funds from general tax revenues. Operations are financed largely by insurance premiums paid by companies that sponsor pension plans and by the PBGC's investment returns.

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PBGC No. 03-13