The Association of U S West Retirees



Retirees partially win in fight over Qwest pensions
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Retirees won limited victories in Denver federal court against Qwest Communications and the U.S. Labor Department in a protracted fight to get more information about the management of their retirement funds.  On Friday, Chief Justice Lewis Babcock ordered Qwest to turn over its investment policy guidelines to the retirees.  In a separate ruling, he ruled that the Labor Department, which investigated the Denver telco's pension fund, must turn over certain documents for his review to decide if they should be kept confidential.

"These are two good rulings," said Curtis Kennedy, attorney for the Association of U S West Retirees.  "On both occasions we've had to fight to find out what went on.  We're going to get to the bottom of it."

Kennedy noted Babcock in particular used colorful language to criticize the Labor Department for withholding information requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Babcock wrote that plaintiff Mimi Hull's "cumulative evidence shows a disturbing trend of agency behavior . . . and indicates that the DOL was not behaving in the spirit of FOIA, providing information in an open fashion to enable citizens to hold their government accountable."

The retirees, however, lost on some of their motions to see certain information from Qwest and the Labor Department.

Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said the company doesn't comment about pending litigation.  A Labor Department spokesman indicated the same.

U S West retirees filed the suit last year, challenging the Labor Department's refusal to turn over documents related to an investigation of Qwest's pension fund.  All but 500 of 6,000 pages in the dispute eventually were released.

The retirees were concerned by the decline in the value of Qwest's pension fund and wanted explanations for certain decisions, including a $68 million investment that quickly dwindled to $700,000.

The Labor Department disclosed last summer that during the course of a three-year investigation it found Qwest had improperly charged $83,321 of company expenses to the employee pension plan.  Qwest reimbursed the expenses, plus interest.

In July, documents obtained by the retirees under an FOIA request showed the Labor Department considered but decided not to take legal action against Qwest in connection with the telco paying more than $400 million of severance benefits out of the employee pension fund between 2000 and 2003.,2777,DRMN_23916_4292457,00.html