February 13, 2006
Mimi Hull, President
ASSOCIATION OF U S WEST RETIREES
AUSWR Board Members and general membership
This update concerns the Kerber v. Qwest case (Pension Death Benefits case). On Friday, February 10, 2006, Judge Boland of the Denver Federal Court conducted a status conference and hearing on our request to have some deadlines extended. We had to ask him to reset and extend deadlines because Qwest Defendants had been very slow to respond to our initial formal discovery requests.
Several dozen retirees attended the court hearing during which we educated Judge Boland about the pending dispute over the Pension Death Benefits and our efforts to obtain necessary evidence from Qwest Defendants. We explained that a central issue in this case is whether or not the Pension Death Benefit is a "vested" benefit, not subject to being taken away at the whim of Qwest leadership. We told Judge Boland that last week Qwest Defendants finally and reluctantly told us that the actuaries for the pension plan consistently prepared financial projections and prepared annual reports including the Pension Death Benefits in the "vested benefits" column. Those annual financial reports were filed with government agencies, the IRS and the Department of Labor, after being signed by U S WEST/Qwest Pension Plan administrators under penalty of perjury. You can see one such report, the year 2004 Form 5500, at the AUSWR website: http://www.uswestretiree.org/111705_PensionPlan5500.pdf If you look at page 15 of the accompanying "Notes to Financial Statements", you will see an amount shown for "vested benefits" and that figure includes Pension Death Benefits: http://www.uswestretiree.org/Qwest%20Pension%20Plan%20Accounting%20and%20Financial%20Summary.pdf (Go to page 15).
We informed Judge Boland that we need additional time to gather additional proof that U S WEST treated the Pension Death Benefits as being vested and that prior members of the Employee Benefits Committee made representations, decisions, declarations, and interpretations that gave the Pension Death Benefit a protected or a vested status. Since the former EBC members, former officers of U S WEST, are scattered all over the country, we need time to conduct interviews and get statements from them. Also, there are plenty of additional records we will be seeking from Qwest Defendants.
At the conclusion of the more than one hour long hearing, Judge Boland granted new deadlines and established a trial date. Expert witness reports are to be provided by July 3, 2006. All discovery is to be completed by September 8, 2006, which is also the deadline to file a request for class certification. This case is set for a 4 day trial to Judge Boland starting on January 22, 2007. There will be further updates about the Kerber case as matters develop and you can keep informed by checking the website: http://www.uswestretiree.org/legal2.htm#death