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The 2015 Pension 40: Terry O’Sullivan

No. 18 Terry O'Sullivan, General President / Laborers’ International Union of North America

Terry O'Sullivan
General President / Laborers’ International Union of North America
Last year: Not ranked

Terry O’Sullivan would like to escape from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. He means no disrespect to the PBGC, an insurance scheme established under ERISA to take over troubled or failed pension plans and continue the flow of benefits. But with a net deficit of $52.3 billion, the PBGC, by its own estimate, lacks the capital to cover anticipated needs. “We see it as something that’s broken and cannot be fixed,” says O’Sullivan, 60, a San Francisco native and a member of a local in Charleston, West Virginia, who has run the Laborers’ International Union of North America since 2000. “We believe in solutions, not bailouts,” he says. “If you give us the tools and the flexibility, we can fix our own problems.” From the start, the relationship between multiemployer plans and the PBGC has been uneasy. Multiemployer funds do not have the same type of default risk as single-employer funds dependent on a corporation. Historically, the PBGC has not stepped in to save multiemployer funds until all their assets have been depleted, and the funds have paid lower premiums than single plans. The Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, which O’Sullivan generally supported, sought unsuccessfully to hike multiemployer premiums from $12 per participant per year to $40. The rate is now $26. O’Sullivan contends that hiking the premium merely punishes healthy funds and retirees. As a result, he and others are pushing for legislation that would take away the PBGC backstop and empower trustees to fix their funds. “We’re not calling for the dissolution of the PBGC,” O’Sullivan says. “What we’re saying is it is not suitable long-term for [multiemployer] funds. We don’t want to pay any more premiums, and the PBGC can’t handle any more liabilities.”

The 2015 Pension 40

1. Bruce Rauner
2. John & Laura Arnold
Laura and John Arnold Foundation
3. Chris Christie
New Jersey
4. Randi Weingarten
AmericanFederation of Teachers
5. Phyllis Borzi
U.S. Department
of Labor
6. Kevin de León
7. Alejandro García Padilla
Commonwealth ofPuerto Rico
8. Laurence Fink
9. Rahm Emanuel
10. Sean McGarvey
North AmericanBuilding Trades Unions
11. John Kline
12. J. Mark Iwry
U.S. Treasury
13. Damon Silvers
14. Jeffrey Immelt
Electric Co.
15. Joshua Gotbaum
Brookings Institution
16. Robin Diamonte
United Technologies Corp.
17. Mark Mullet
18. Terry O'Sullivan
Laborers' International Union of North America
19. Raymond Dalio
Bridgewater Associates
20. Ted Wheeler
21. Thomas Nyhan
Central States Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund
22. Karen Ferguson & Karen Friedman
Pensions Rights Center
23. Randy DeFrehn
National Coordinating Committee forMultiemployer Plans
24. Robert O'Keef
Motorola Solutions
25. Caitlin Long
Morgan Stanley
26. Kenneth Feinberg
The Law Offices
of Kenneth R. Feinberg
27. Orrin Hatch
28. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Center for Retirement Initiatives, Georgetown University
29. Ian Lanoff
Groom Law Group
30. Joshua Rauh
Stanford Graduate School of Business
31. Ted Eliopoulos
California Public Employees' Retirement System
32. Edward (Ted) Siedle
Benchmark Financial Services
33. Teresa Ghilarducci
New School for Social Research
34. Denise Nappier
35. W. Thomas Reeder Jr.
Pension BenefitGuaranty Corp.
36. Hank Kim
National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems
37. Paul Singer
Elliott Management Corp.
38. Bailey Childers
National PublicPension Coalition
39. Amy Kessler
Prudential Financial
40. Judy Mares
U.S. Labor Department

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