January 17, 2005
Nelson Phelps, President and Executive
ASSOCIATION OF U S WEST RETIREES
and AUSWR Board Members
This is a follow-up to my January 5,
2005, report regarding two boxes of papers I received during the last
week in December from the Department of Labor (DOL) responsive to the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made in March 2004, the
subject of the Hull v. Department of Labor lawsuit filed in the
Denver Federal Court.
Needless to state, there was little to
no organization of the over 4,000 papers sent to me. But, as expected,
nothing was truly confidential. Indeed, the vast bulk of the paperwork
consisted of copies of the operative pension plan documents, severance
plan documents, disability plan documents, amendments, resolutions and
form 5500s filed from 1998 to 2001. I found only a few documents,
completely out of order, which shed some light on what the so-called
DOL's "investigation" was about. It is not all that exciting.
It appears that the "investigation"
was a rather routine one, seeking information on whether Qwest was in
compliance with disclosure obligations and whether certain expenses
charged to the U S WEST/Qwest pension plan during 1998 and 1999 were
truly pension expenses. The DOL asked to see back-up paperwork (i.e.,
receipts and disbursement journals) to support certain expenses that had
been charged to the pension plan. Much of that is missing.
I have attached hereto in Adobe PDF
file format, the DOL's initial contact and questionnaire letter sent to
Qwest on or about April 26, 2001. Please note the separate piece
of paper which is an answer to question to No. 16 which asks about
"other expenses." Someone within Qwest provided a curt answer merely
listing "swap agreements," as part of the "other expenses." Nothing
else is said. Hmmmmm. Noteworthy, is a response to the DOL's question
about what "income" the company realized by curtailing retiree health
care benefits. The answer - $106 million, an amount added to support
the "profit" shown by Qwest in year 2001 when Joseph Nacchio was at the
helm. Also, I have attached a copy of the DOL's August 7, 2001,
follow-up letter sent to Qwest. Finally, I have attached a copy of the
DOL's interview notes dated May 15, 2003, which interview notes are the
latest dated ones in the pile of papers the DOL reluctantly gave to me
only after the Hull case was filed under the FOIA
Representatives of the DOL tell me that
about 1,500 pages of paper responsive to the FOIA request are still
being withheld and nothing is being said to me about whether the
"investigation" is either concluded or ongoing and what, if any,
decisions have been made about the investigation.
Surprisingly, I did not find
any evidence that the DOL has been looking into any of the investments
made with Qwest Pension Plan monies. Instead, the DOL's focus appears
to be on certain "administrative expenses" that had been charged to the
Pension Plan before the merger of U S WEST and Qwest.
We will continue to press forward for
more information and an explanation from the DOL about what exactly is
going on and what, if anything, has been accomplished during the past
three years. For that reason, we will not be dropping the Hull v.
Department of Labor lawsuit now pending in the Denver Federal
Court. There will be a status conference concerning the Hull case before
Magistrate Judge Schlatter on Thursday, January 27, 2005, at 10:15 a.m.
I will send you a written report about what happens.