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PBGC Pension Search Finds 15,000 Owed $61 Million in Benefits; $80 Million Still Unclaimed

January 22, 2003

New Automatic E-mail Capability for People Named in Pension Search Directory

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) today announced that it has located almost 15,000 people owed more than $61 million in pension benefits since launching the Pension Search Program in 1996. Still to be found are some 22,000 people who can claim almost $80 million in pension benefits from terminated defined benefit pension plans.

"If you lost your wallet at the grocery store, you'd rush back to find it," said PBGC Executive Director Steven A. Kandarian. "Well, here's a situation where people may have lost a pension worth thousands of dollars, and we want to help them find it."

PBGC recently enhanced its Internet pension search by adding an automatic e-mail capability to the name of each missing person. Now, with one click of the mouse, individuals named in the Pension Search Directory can send an e-mail to PBGC with basic information, such as a current mailing address and dates of employment, to find out if they are entitled to a missing pension benefit. Searchers can still e-mail or if they believe they are entitled to a benefit.

Since October 2001, PBGC found about 4,500 people owed $27 million. Their estimated benefits range from $1 to $123,498, averaging $6,540.

The 15,000 people found since the program began live in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and are concentrated in New York (2,247), California (1,678), Texas (1,226), Florida (890) and Pennsylvania (828). Of the almost 22,000 people still missing, their benefits range from $1 to $295,298 and average about $3,774. New York (4,622), California (2,617), Texas (1,606), New Jersey (1,334) and Pennsylvania (1,170) have the most missing participants.

Missing participants added to the Pension Search Directory during 2002 include several thousand who earned benefits under some 12,000 pension plans that terminated between Jan. 1, 1976 and Dec. 31, 1981 without amending their vesting schedules to conform to ERISA. Until last year, an outside settlement board handled the search for these individuals separately. The court-appointed board administered a 1996 legal settlement that provided corrected benefits plus interest, as determined under the settlement agreement, to people in these plans who did not receive all of their vested benefits when the plans terminated.

Once people find their names in the Pension Search Directory, they provide PBGC further details for verification of identity, which generally takes four to six weeks. After PBGC receives a completed application, people eligible for a benefit begin receiving checks within two months. Those entitled to future benefits will receive them at retirement age.

To avoid becoming a missing pension participant, workers should tell their employer when they move or change names, and they should hold on to any pension information they receive from their employers. A person may be missing a pension from a former employer who ended a pension plan with sufficient funds or from a pension plan that was taken over by PBGC. Included in the Pension Search Directory are people who may be able to document that they are owed a benefit, even though current PBGC records show that no benefit is due.

PBGC works continuously to locate missing people owed money from terminated defined benefit pension plans, assisted by the Internet, automated telephone directories, government agency databases and information from the general public. PBGC does not endorse firms or individuals offering to find missing pension benefits for a fee because the information is available from many sources such as the Pension Search Directory and others listed in the PBGC publication "Finding A Lost Pension."

PBGC is a federal corporation created under ERISA. 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 investment returns.

[Table - PBGC Pension Search Program, State Data By Company Location as of January 22, 2003]

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PBGC No. 03-17