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Minnesota to tap workers comp funds
The Minnesota Legislature acted quickly to override Gov. Jesse Ventura's veto last week of the state's budget bill, H.B. 351. The state may now tap into monies from two special workers compensation funds, including $282 million from its second-injury fund. Gov. Ventura had vetoed the bill saying it "comes up short on balance, its cuts are haphazard and it has consequences that even legislative leaders are not aware of." The Alliance of American Insurers had lobbied against the measure, arguing that tapping the reserves of Minnesota's Special Compensation Fund to balance the state's budget would lead to higher assessments against self-insured employers and workers comp insurers. Insurers, in turn, would pass the costs on to employers in the state, the Alliance said.
Swiss Re, XL resolve dispute over credit swap
Swiss Re Financial Products Corp. and XL Insurance (Bermuda) Ltd. have withdrawn claims against one another in a lawsuit filed last year in connection with a credit default swap between the two companies. At issue was the validity of a reference entity-a company whose bankruptcy or credit deterioration can trigger payments by the seller of protection in a credit default swap-and other terms and conditions in a swap SRFP purchased from XL in June 2000. In statements announcing the settlement, both companies said "such a contractual dispute may occasionally arise as the industry fine-tunes processes and definitions associated with credit derivative contracts." As part of the settlement, SRFP and XL will keep the swap in place while amending and restating the written confirmation the two companies originally executed. Other details of the settlement were kept confidential.
Verizon settles EEOC discrimination suits
Verizon Communications Inc. has reached a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission resolving two class-action lawsuits that allege the company and its predecessors discriminated against pregnant women. The settlement involves thousands of women who claimed that they did not receive service credit toward their retirement benefits when they were out on pregnancy or maternity leave. The claims against the New York-based company extend back to absences taken as early as 1965. Under terms of the settlement, women who took maternity or pregnancy leave from 1965 to 1977 will receive seven additional weeks of service credit for every leave taken. Women taking leaves after 1977 will receive two weeks' credit per leave.
Oregon seeks to block Enron D&O advance
Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers last month asked a bankruptcy court to block an Enron Corp. request for an advance of $30 million from the company's directors and officers liability insurers. Allowing the Houston-based company to tap its $350 million in existing D&O coverage could diminish funds available to pay shareholders that have lost money invested in Enron stock, according to Oregon's attorney general. The Oregon State Public Employee Retirement Fund, like other pension funds, has lost millions of dollars, according to the Oregon motion filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Many other states support Oregon's motion, the attorney general said. But Oregon has a special interest in the case because Enron is incorporated in the state.
Most employers adding 401(k) catch-up: Survey
Most employers are amending their 401(k) plans to add a catch-up provision allowed under a 2001 federal law, but some are waiting until the second half of this year to make the change, according to a new survey. The survey of 163 large employers by benefit consultant Hewitt Associates L.L.C. of Lincolnshire, Ill., found that 80% of respondents are changing their plans to allow catch-up contributions, while 16% are considering adding the feature. Among those modifying their plans, 63% will do so during the first half of 2002, and 31% will wait until the second half of this year. Some employers are delaying the change because their recordkeepers need time to modify their systems to handle the contributions, said Rob Reiskytl, a consultant in Hewitt's Minneapolis office.
An employment discrimination complaint does not have to contain specific facts establishing a case to proceed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week. Such a complaint needs only a short statement showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief, the high court ruled. The case in question was brought by Akos Swierkiewicz, a former senior vp at the U.S. unit of Paris-based reinsurer Sorema S.A., who charges that he suffered job discrimination because of his age and national origin. The justices remanded the case to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York....Leslie Kramerich, the acting assistant secretary of the Labor Department's Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration during the Clinton administration, has joined the Washington office of benefit consultant William M. Mercer Inc. as an attorney....Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne is expected to sign legislation that would bring state tax law in line with a 2001 federal law that permits employees 50 and older to make catch-up contributions to their 401(k) plans. The Legislature passed the measure, H.B. 492, last week. Meanwhile, the West Virginia Legislature has passed a measure, S. 140, that would bring its state law in line with the federal catch-up provisions....Susan Meisinger has been named president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management. Ms. Meisinger has been executive vp and chief operating officer of the Alexandria, Va.-based organization since 1999. She replaces Helen Drinan, who will leave SHRM at the end of this month....President Bush called for Superfund reform when asked about his commitment to funding the environmental cleanup program during a White House press conference on Monday. "I'm committed to cleaning up the environment without enriching lawyers," the president said. "I think there's too much litigation when it comes to environmental cleanup."