Retirement Heist by Ellen Schultz
How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers


6 Critic Reviews

Essential reading for anyone who works for a living.


"'As far as I can determine there is only one solution [to the CEO's demand to save more money]', the HR representative wrote to her superiors. 'That would be the death of all existing retirees.'"

It's no secret that hundreds of companies have been slashing pensions and health coverage earned by millions of retirees. Employers blame an aging workforce, stock market losses, and spiraling costs- what they call "a perfect storm" of external forces that has forced them to take drastic measures.

But this so-called retirement crisis is no accident. Ellen E. Schultz, award-winning investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, reveals how large companies and the retirement industry-benefits consultants, insurance companies, and banks-have all played a huge and hidden role in the death spiral of American pensions and benefits.
A little over a decade ago, most companies had more than enough set aside to pay the benefits earned by two generations of workers, no matter how long they lived. But by exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations, and new accounting rules, companies essentially turned their pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters, and profit centers.

Drawing on original analysis of company data, government filings, internal corporate documents, and confidential memos, Schultz uncovers decades of widespread deception during which employers have exaggerated their retiree burdens while lobbying for government handouts, secretly cutting pensions, tricking employees, and misleading shareholders. She reveals how companies:

Siphon billions of dollars from their pension plans to finance downsizings and sell the assets in merger deals Overstate the burden of rank-and-file retiree obligations to justify benefits cuts while simultaneously using the savings to inflate executive pay and pensions Hide their growing executive pension liabilities, which at some companies now exceed the liabilities for the regular pension plans Purchase billions of dollars of life insurance on workers and use the policies as informal executive pension funds. When the insured workers and retirees die, the company collects tax-free death benefits Preemptively sue retirees after cutting retiree health benefits and use other legal strategies to erode their legal protections.

Though the focus is on large companies-which drive the legislative agenda-the same games are being played at smaller companies, non-profits, public pensions plans and retirement systems overseas. Nor is this a partisan issue: employees of all political persuasions and income levels-from managers to miners, pro- football players to pilots-have been slammed.

Retirement Heist is a scathing and urgent expose of one of the most critical and least understood crises of our time.


About Ellen Schultz

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ELLEN E. SCHULTZ is an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal who has covered the so-called retirement crisis for more than a decade. Her reporting has led to congressional hearings, new legislation, changes in IRS practice, and a Treasury investigation. She has won dozens of awards and in 2003 was part of a team of Wall Street Journal reporters awarded the Pulitzer Prize for articles on corporate scandals. She lives in New York City.
Published September 15, 2011 by Portfolio. 256 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Business & Economics, Law & Philosophy, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Retirement Heist
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Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Sep 01 2011

Essential reading for anyone who works for a living.

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NY Times

Reviewed by BRYAN BURROUGH on Sep 17 2011

For anyone seriously interested in the retirement industry — and that’s what it amounts to, an industry — this book should be required reading.

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Reviewed by Steve Denning on Oct 19 2011

Why was GE closing its fully funded pension plan, while continuing its financially burdensome executive plan? This is the question to which Ellen Schultz’s incisive new book...offers a powerful answer.

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Labor Notes

Reviewed by Thomas Adams on Feb 07 2012

Schultz describes in meticulous detail how corporate executives twisted pension laws meant to protect workers’ retirement into instruments of legalized theft.

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The Free Press

Reviewed by Bruce Bostick on Jan 10 2012

‘Retirement Heist’ is definitely a must-read for anyone concerned with how our nation got into this crisis, anyone trying to find the way out!

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US News

Reviewed by EMILY BRANDON on Sep 15 2011

But in a shocking new book...Ellen Schultz explains that pension cuts are actually an accounting maneuver that is being used to boost corporate earnings.

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