Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Results expected soon in attorney general examination

Dick Iannuzzi - NYSUT President "There is no intermingling of NYSUT and Member Benefits funds. Any fees NYSUT’s Member Benefits Trust receives are used to fund the nearly 40 programs and services offered by the Trust. No money from the Trust or vendors is used to fund daily union operations." This quote is from www.edwize.org

The linked to article also quotes Iannuzzi as saying "Member Benefits uses approximately half the fees from ING to directly enhance the benefits received by 403(b) participants, including providing term life insurance and a survivor financial counseling program to inservice participants; and a legal services plan and financial counseling program. The remainder of the fees are used to help cover the costs of administering the 403(b) offering and the more than 40 Member Benefits programs and services, Trust managers said. There is no mingling of Member Benefits funds and NYSUT funds, union leaders noted."

NYSUT admits to using the assets of a trust (the 403(b) plan) to fund other Member Benefits programs and services, this is egregious. In Iannuzzi's defense on the NYSUT website it does disclose the following:

"The ING Opportunity Plus Program is a NYSUT Member Benefits-endorsed program. Member Benefits receives an expense reimbursement/endorsement arrangement of $6.50 per NYSUT member for the year 2006 with a member cap of 515,000 for this program. All such reimbursements are used solely to defray the costs of administering Member Benefits programs and, where appropriate, to enhance them. Member Benefits acts as your advocate; please contact Member Benefits at 800-626-8101, if you experience a problem with any endorsed program."

I do not know if the prospectus specifically states this or if materials given to potential and current participants disclose what is going on.

I do know that using the assets of one trust to pay for benefits for another trust (with different beneficiaries) could easily be seen as a breach of fiduciary responsibility. Imagine if a school district started a 457(b) plan and required the investment provider to overcharge the participants so that it could use the funds to pay health benefit costs for the employees of the district - I am pretty sure NYSUT would be outreached at such a breach - yet they are doing the same thing.

As a fiduciary of the 403(b) program it is shocking that they would use plan assets to subsidize other programs. I believe this to be a breach of fiduciary responsibility and an abuse of trust - even if fully disclosed.

ScottyD
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