Slaughter, Scott Secure GAO Investigation to Help Protect the Benefits of American Workers

Will examine the impacts of decades of corporate restructurings on pensions and health benefits

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) announced today that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to their request for an investigation examining how restructurings by large corporations impact American workers’ pensions and health benefits. Over the last several decades, spinoffs, mergers, bankruptcies, and joint ventures have negatively impacted workers across the country, who have all too often lost their jobs and seen their employer-provided benefits slashed as a result. The results of the GAO’s examination will help guide their ongoing efforts to ensure retirees can access the benefits they’ve earned and depend on.

“Corporate restructurings have been on a steady increase for decades. While they allow for companies to grow and enter new markets, there is no denying that they have all too often harmed the livelihood of American workers by slashing the pensions and health benefits promised to them in exchange for years of hard work. I’m pleased that the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has accepted my request to examine the impact of tactics like mergers and spinoffs as I continue leading efforts in Congress to protect the earned benefits workers depend on,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter, ranking member of the House Rules Committee, partnered with Scott, ranking member of the Education and Workforce Committee, to request this investigation. They are asking GAO to examine key questions, including trends in corporate restructuring over the last twenty years, their effects on pension and health benefits, and what lessons members of Congress could learn as they work to protect the benefits that American workers have earned.

“Promises made to American workers during their decades of employment must be kept so they can retire with security and dignity,” said Scott. “I am pleased to join my colleague, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, in calling for an investigation into so-called corporate restructurings and the impact such business activities have on workers’ hard-earned benefits. I look forward to working with Congresswoman Slaughter and my Democratic colleagues on the Committee as we fight to protect access to health care coverage and strengthen retirement security.”

Slaughter is the author of H.R. 1856, the Employee Benefits Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation would make it more difficult for companies to use the bankruptcy process to reduce or terminate health care benefits for current and future retirees.

A copy of the GAO request is included below and available online here:

The Honorable Gene Dodaro
Comptroller General
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20548

December 13, 2016 

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

Over the last several decades, there has been a rise in the number of corporate restructurings undertaken by large corporations in the United States.  Mergers, spinoffs, bankruptcies and joint ventures are common and can have long-term effects on the U.S. economy, allowing businesses to regroup or enter new markets.  However, in some cases, workers can be adversely affected by such restructurings – possibly losing their jobs or suffering reductions in their employer-provided benefits.  We are interested in learning more about the effects of restructuring activities on traditional pensions and health benefits.  Therefore, we would like GAO to assist in answering the following questions:

  • What is known about the number and types of corporate restructuring?  What are the trends in such restructuring over the last two decades?
  • What have been the effects of different types of corporate restructuring on pension benefits?  In particular, how has restructuring impacted pension benefits in those firms that initially offered a traditional pension plan, was that plan frozen, closed, terminated, sold to an insurance company or transferred to PBGC?
  • Regarding health benefits, to what extent did these restructurings affect the provision of benefits for current employees as well as retirees?
  • What, if any, are the lessons that can be learned from this data and these trends for policy-makers?

American workers are the backbone of our national and local economies and Congress has an obligation to ensure that retirees can obtain peace of mind that their earned benefits won’t be eliminated. Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please contact Jack Spasiano in the office of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter at (202) 225-3615 or Kevin McDermott on the Committee on Education and the Workforce staff at (202) 225-3725 if you have any questions.                   

Press Contact

Scott: Kiara Pesante, (202) 226-0853
Slaughter: Jeff Gohringer, (202) 225-3615