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July 7, 2005
Mimi Hull, President
Board Members and general membership
This is a follow-up to my June 3, 2005, report regarding the Hull v. Department of Labor (Freedom of Information Act - FOIA) lawsuit filed in the Denver Federal Court.  The June 3 update reported that the United States Attorney defending the Department of Labor's actions told us the Department of Labor (DOL) ‘closed’ the over 3 year long investigation of the Qwest Pension Plan effective April 7, 2005. That means almost all of the 1,500 pages of previously withheld documents that had been requested since March 2004 are no longer exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The DOL took several months to ‘process’ those documents to get them ready for release.  On or about June 27, 2005, the DOL offices in Washington, DC and Kansas City completed its processing of 1,402 pages of documents that had been withheld from disclosure.  On that date, a letter and the papers were shipped to me.  I have reproduced below the entire text of the DOL's June 27, 2005, letter sent to me.
As you know from my last update, the investigation concluded with a decision that the Qwest Pension Plan had been charged expenses that should have been paid by Qwest out of company revenues. The DOL found that $83,321.00 was improperly charged to the pension plan.  Qwest reimbursed that amount, plus interest to the Qwest Pension Plan.
My review of the additional 1,402 pages of documents sent to me, reveals that the DOL was also considering taking legal action against Qwest for "acts and omissions" related to the use of Qwest Pension Plan monies to provide 'severance payments' in order to carry out the prolonged workforce reduction after the U S WEST / Qwest merger.  Qwest used the Qwest Pension Plan to provide lump sum additional pension payments (i.e., "Additional Defined Lump Sum benefits" or "ADLS benefits" and "Enhanced Retirement Pension Benefits") to well over 12,000 employees, at a cost nearing $500 million of the pension funds.  While considering legal action, the DOL required every Qwest Board of Director and every Qwest Employee Benefit Committee member involved with the situation to execute a 'tolling agreement,' an agreement to suspend the running of the statute of limitations.  The tolling agreement was executed during April and May 2004, coincidentally, very shortly after we pursued the administrative appeal of the Kansas City DOL's decision to deny the FOIA disclosure request.
In the end, the DOL, for reasons not disclosed, decided not to pursue the litigation and, instead wrapped up its investigation by requiring Qwest to repay only $83,321.00 plus interest to the Qwest Pension Plan.  The reasons for the DOL's decision not to go forward concerning the ADLS payments are being withheld from us, and the DOL is contending that information is not subject to FOIA disclosure.  However, we will continue efforts to get that information.
You can go the AUSWR website and under the heading Freedom of Information Act – Hull v. DOL view the July 7 Update, when posted, and the attachment thereto, a copy of the April-May 2004 DOL / Qwest signed tolling agreement pertaining to the DOL's investigation about the use of Qwest Pension Plan monies to pay the ADLS and Enhanced Retirement Pension Benefits, the lump sum severance payments.

Attachment:    (DOL / Qwest "Tolling Agreement," as signed - 27 pages)

c:    Donnetta Mitchell

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