Retirees Score Hits Battling Executive Perks
Wall Street Journal (05/20/03) p.B1; Greene, Kelly; Harris, Nicole

While retirees have long fought executives to retain their own medical and pension benefits, many are now fighting to reduce executives' compensation pay and benefits. Retirees are protesting, initiating shareholder proposals, and writing letters to current executives about the sacrifices workers and retirees have been forced to make, while current executives have been beefing up and protecting their own pay and benefits in trusts that will withstand their companies' financial problems. Retiree groups of former workers and executives from Delta Air Lines, Verizon Communications, and Lucent Technologies are among those protesting their former-employers' recent moves to protect executives' pay and benefits, while allowing workers' health benefits and pension plans to become diminished. A group of retired Delta executives in January wrote a letter to the airline company attacking its current chairman and CEO, Leo Mullin, for placing $45 million in protected trusts to safeguard the pensions of 33 top executives, all the while asking rank-and-file employees and retirees to give up some of their health and pension benefits. At Verizon, the Association of BellTel Retirees, a group of 95,000 retirees, won a shareholder resolution that would force the company to seek shareholder consent before allowing executive and severance agreements that provide executives with benefits of more than 2.99 times the sum of executives' salaries. While retirees and other shareholders complain that executives' hoarding of company funds is despicable, executives argue that the trusts they create to safeguard executives' benefits and pay are meant to help the companies retain key management workers during difficult economic times.

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