Since launching its Pension Search Directory on the Internet in December 1996, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has located some 6,600 people eligible for $21 million in pension benefits. This includes about 4,800 people owed $10 million who were found in the past year. In that period, 6,800 new names were added to the Directory, for a total of 12,000 missing pension plan participants. Altogether, they have $27 million coming from plans that companies terminated before all beneficiaries could be located.
"The spread of Internet technology helps PBGC carry out its fundamental mission -- making sure workers receive every dollar of their hard-earned pensions," said PBGC Executive Director David M. Strauss. "As more and more people have access to the Web, many are getting the chance to check out the Pension Search Directory to see if there's unclaimed retirement money waiting for them or someone they know."
The 6,600 people located to date by the Pension Search Program come from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Over half are from five states: 1,089 in New York; 969 in California; 399 in Ohio; 376 in Pennsylvania; and 374 in Texas. Benefits for those found averaged $4,200, ranging from $2.00 to $111,000.
Of the 12,000 missing participants in the Pension Search Directory, over half are from six states: 2,038 in California; 1,901 in New York; 840 in Texas; 609 in New Jersey; 608 in Michigan and 607 in Illinois. Their benefits average about $2,600, ranging from under $1.00 to $196,000. The Directory also includes unlocated people who may be able to document that they are owed a benefit, even though current PBGC records show that no benefit is due.
Once people find their names in the Pension Search Directory, they provide more personal details to PBGC for verification of identity, including proof of age and other vital statistics. The identification process generally takes 4-6 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 when they reach retirement age.
Many of the names in the Pension Search Directory are workers with pensions whose former employers closed pension plans and distributed benefits. Others are workers or retirees missing from underfunded pension plans taken over by PBGC because the plans did not have enough money to pay benefits. To avoid becoming a missing pension plan participant, workers should hold on to any pension-related information and make sure to tell their employer when they move or change names.
In locating missing participants, the Pension Search Program combines the efforts of the general public using the Internet with those of PBGC staff working with the latest electronic technology and software. PBGC does not endorse firms that offer to find missing pension benefits for a fee because the information is available free from many sources including the Pension Search Directory. Other free sources are listed in "Finding A Lost Pension," a booklet that explains the kinds of information needed for a search, suggests potential allies and details numerous information sources. It is available on the Internet at http://www.pbgc.gov or from PBGC's Communications and Public Affairs Dept., 1200 K St. NW, Washington, DC 20005-4026.
PBGC is a federal corporation created under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to guarantee payment of basic pension benefits earned by about 43 million American workers and retirees participating in nearly 40,000 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.