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Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers Hardcover – September 15, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A blistering examination of corporate greed and avarice. Essential reading for anyone who works for a living.”


“A fascinating, troubling exposé and a sobering call to arms”
Publishers Weekly

“Retirement Heist is a concise and alarming look at how—in the span of a generation—the 1 percent has looted the futures of the 99 percent.”
—Kelly Johnson, The Washington Post

“Ms. Schultz herds all her journalistic cattle into a single corral, laying out by what any measure is a damning indictment of the broken pension promises too many American corporations have made to their workers . . . This book should be required reading."
—Bryan Burrough, The New York Times

“I’ve thought a lot about this financial crisis and I did not think there was another piece of information I could learn that could still make me angry…. Thank you.”
—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show


“Journalist Ellen Schultz has been writing about such shameful behavior for a long time, mostly in The Wall Street Journal. Now she has pulled together the copious, irrefutable evidence between the covers of a book. It is shocking, and demoralizing. … In most cases documented by Schultz, the perpetrators have escaped widespread blame — except in her investigative pieces and now in this book.”
—Steve Weinberg, USA Today


''Meticulously researched and as gripping as a crime novel, this is essential reading for anyone who has, had, or hopes to have a job.''
—Nell Minow, cofounder of The Corporate Library and author of Watching the Watchers: Corporate Governance for the 21st Century


''Americans have long been burdened by the overwhelming challenge of saving for retirement, as tax deductions for retirement savings favor the highest income earners and pension coverage erodes. But as an economist investigating the retirement crises I was shocked at Ellen Schultz's exposure of outright lies, manipulations, and pure greed of the employers trusted with our retirement funds.''
—Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis and author of When I'm Sixty-Four: The Plot against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them


''Retirement Heist uncovers one of the most significant threats to the American worker of our time. Ellen Schultz's reporting is expansive, smart, and will have you shouting for someone to be held accountable. Anybody who works and is worried about their future should read this book.''
—Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute and author of Can They Do That? Retaking Our Fundamental Rights in the Workplace
“Ellen Schultz has been bravely uncovering crimes of the corporate state since well before it was en vogue. Retirement Heist is like an acclaimed artist’s most profound masterpiece—or, more accurately, a horror auteur’s most frightening film of all.”
—David Sirota, syndicated columnist, radio host, and bestselling author of The Uprising and Back to Our Future


''The retirement security of millions of Americans hasn't been lost to the recession or the demographics of an aging workforce, it's been stolen-by corporate executives and their consultants, lobbyists, accountants, and lawyers. Retirement Heist is an important book for workers and policymakers that documents how corporate profits and executives' salaries have been inflated at the expense of the middle class.''
—Jay Feinman, distinguished professor, Rutgers University School of Law, Camden and author of Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don't Pay Claims and What You Can Do about It

About the Author

Ellen E. Schultz is an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal who has covered the so-called retirement crisis for more than a decade. Her reporting has led to Congressional hearings, proposed legislation, and investigations by the Treasury and the GAO.

Schultz has won dozens of journalism awards for economics, financial, and investigative reporting, including three Polk Awards, two Loeb awards, and a National Press Club award. In 2003, Schultz was part of a team of Wall Street Journal reports awarded the Pulitzer Prize, for articles on corporate scandals. She lives in New York City.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; 1 edition (September 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843332
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843337
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #866,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on September 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Ellen Schultz's 'Retirement Heist' is both enlightening and aggravating. 'Retirement Heist' is the outgrowth of years of digging through SEC and IRS filings, as well as numerous interviews. The book tells how companies have turned pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters, and profit centers through exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations, and new accounting rules. In doing so they have also exaggerated retiree burdens to lobby for government handouts, secretly cut employee pensions while boosting executive pensions, and mislead employees and shareholders. New flexibility in accounting rules have also turned retiree plans into earnings-management tools, helping to boost stock prices and, thereby, executive pay.

The story begins in 1999 after the stock-market run-up in the 1980s which left corporations with over $250 billion in excess pension fund assets, aided also by years of downsizing and 1990 and 1974 laws limiting raids on fund surpluses and requiring adequate funding. Many of the corporations hadn't contributed to their pensions in over ten years, yet had enough assets to cover all current/future retirees to age 100. Their lobbying then allowed new uses for those monies.

Bell Atlantic then used $3 billion to finance early-retirement benefits for 25,000 managers being let go, and Verizon (its eventual successor) continued the practice - the result, combined with a relatively small market decline, was the surplus fell from $24 billion in 2000 to $1.7 billion in early 2005. It then froze the pensions of its 50,000 management employees, withdrew another $5 billion, and by early 2011, when the market was higher than in 2000, the plan had a $3.4 billion deficit. Delphi, Delta, Ford, G.M.
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Format: Hardcover
First, read RETIREMENT HEIST to understand how executives in corporations and their hired enablers and strategists, benefits consulting firms, use accounting tricks, legal loopholes, deception, and outright lying to rob people -- maybe you -- of their pensions.

Second, read it to understand how these same executives have and continue to transfer wealth, if you can call employee nest eggs that, from their workers to themselves to fund their ludicrously inflated pensions.

Third, read it to understand how executives are burdening their companies with huge unfunded deferred compensation packages that may prove costly to employees and investors in the future. And given recent trends, let's include all taxpayers.

Fourth, read it to understand the new meaning of financial management and how executives use financial maneuvers to deceive not just their employees and government monitors but also investment analysts and investors.

For an overview of the book, scroll up to the book description and also read Lloyd Eskildson's excellent review. And don't immediately assume Schultz is talking about obviously shady operators. She's talking about and citing the shenanigans of executives in corporations widely held by investors and leaders in their business sectors. Among those covered are AT&T, Bank of America, American Greetings, Cigna, Delta Airlines, IBM, the National Football League, and many more, perhaps your employer or stock investment among them.

Schultz writes clearly about even the most complex tactics and supplies plenty of examples to illustrate her points. After finishing, you will understand the games executives play with retirement and healthcare benefits, as well as their own compensation packages.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent, excellent book! I highly recommend this book to anyone who is part of a pension plan or collects a pension.

I could not put this book down and read it in two evenings. I then ordered three copies to give to coworkers.

This book explains in plain English how companies manipulate pension plans for their profit to the detriment of the plan participants and retired pensioners. Truly an eye opener with real life examples from Caterpillar, ATT, Verizon, US Steel, and on and on. The author even lists some of the court cases brought by pensioners for those who want to dig a little deeper.

Definitely worth a read.
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Retirees and long-term employees good. Big corporations and pension consultants bad. Executives greedy. That's the driver. But don't we already know that? The gist of the book -- anecdotes showing how any number of large corporations have "used" tax-qualifed defined benefit pension plan assests, the cutback and termination of retiree medical benefits and the accounting rules, legally, for the most part, to boost accounting profits, secure executive retirement benefits after-the-fact, and terminate or freeze defined benefit plans, all to the detriment of rank and file employess. Much of what the author says is completely true, but she doesn't hesitate to use half-truths (truthiness) to make her points either. There are at least a couple of apparent errors of fact and law, but not enough to do any harm, given the non-technical nature of the book. So, if you're a layman who knows little about the retirement benefits industry, this book would be a good eye-opener. Just remember that it's only one side and one small part of the story, presented from the underdog standpoint.

Schultz is a Wall Street Journal investigative reporter and acknowledges that "[m]any of the stories in this book first appeared in some form in The Wall Street Journal . . . ." Moreover, that's exactly how the book reads, like an extended newspaper article. Here are my gripes.

One. No footnotes to sources. There are a few references to page numbers in the "Notes" section at the rear of the book, but most "facts" are uncited. Also in the "Notes" chapter, the author says "To simplify matters, I have omitted specific citations of pages and dates [from SEC Form 11-K reports], but figures for a specific year come from filings made the following calendar year.
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