Critical and Declining “Red-Zone” Multiemployer Pension Plans May Never Recover Without Additional Congressional Assistance

(10/9/18) — 

As the Congressional Joint Select Committee for the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans weighs options for strengthening the multiemployer pension system, there is considerable interest in critical-status plans, referred to as red-zone plans, and in the subset of red-zone plans certified as critical and declining (C&D). Critical and declining-status plans are those red-zone plans projected to be insolvent, generally within the next 20 years. Participants these plans are at risk of reduced benefits, including current retirees already receiving pension payments.

Segal Consulting analyzed red-zone multiemployer plans over 10 years. These are the key findings of our study:

  • For plans that were in the red zone in 2010, there was a double-digit decrease in the average market-value funded percentage of plans in C&D status compared to a double-digit increase for non-C&D plans.
  • Characteristics of C&D plans include a high retiree and inactive-to-active ratio and a high “burn rate” (the rate of asset decline, without regard to investment income).
  • Over the last 10 years, most red-zone plans have taken corrective actions. As a group, they have increased the average contribution rate by more than 50 percent and have reduced adjustable benefits for more than 80 percent of participants.
  • Some red-zone plans have emerged into the yellow or green zone. Many others are on the road to recovery. C&D plans, however, are not recovering.

These findings are presented in an issue of Data.

Diane Gleave, senior vice president and actuary for Segal, noted, “It is unlikely that C&D red-zone plans, despite having taken action over the last decade, will be able to recover without some form of additional assistance.”

David Brenner, National Director of Multiemployer Consulting, added, “That’s because the tools and remedies currently available to C&D plans appear insufficient for recovery. That’s why the work of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Plans is of the utmost importance.”

To speak with a representative of Segal about this study of multiemployer pension plans in the red zone, please contact Erin Burns.

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The Segal Group ( is a private, employee-owned consulting firm headquartered in New York and with more than 1,000 employees throughout the U.S. and Canada. Members of The Segal Group include Segal Consulting, Sibson Consulting, Segal Select Insurance Services, Inc. and Segal Marco Advisors.

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