2013 Winter Think Tank and Awards Banquet

CORPaTH’s 2013  Winter Think Tank and Awards Banquet was a ‘Milestone Moment’ in Efforts to Protect, Promote and Perpetuate Pensions

Reflecting on the extraordinary success of CORPaTH’s 2013 Think Tank and Awards Banquet in Las Vegas, CORPaTH Executive Director Ron Auer said the event was “a milestone moment when the leading thinkers and decision makers of the pension community got together to define their challenges and begin formulating a comprehensive strategy for overcoming them.”

“The beneficiaries of our efforts will be men and women around the globe who have worked hard and deserve a chance to retire with dignity and economic security,” he said.

Two hundred participants assembled at Caesars Palace on Dec. 17-18 to learn from renowned experts about the latest developments in the fight to protect, promote and perpetuate defined-benefit pension plans.

They came to connect with each other, share their best practices and plan for the future. And they came to celebrate the achievements of five individuals who dedicate their careers to guaranteeing secure retirements for millions of working people.

The Think Tank began Tuesday evening, Dec. 17, with an intensive, data-filled report on “Defined Benefit Plans: A Strategy for Sustainability” presented by Cathie Eitelberg, senior vice president and national public sector director of The Segal Company.

She laid out the challenges being confronted by defined-benefit plans, the current status of the plans, the economic impacts of the pension crisis and the need for plan continuity and sustainability. A networking reception concluded the evening.

Subsequent presentations on Dec. 18 included:

  •  “Pensions on the Chopping Block: It’s Them Against Us,” delivered by Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., senior consultant for the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO.
  • John Elliot, partner at NEPC, and Hank Kim, executive director and counsel for the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, were joined by Max Patterson of TexPERS and Marc Perrone, secretary-treasurer of the UFCW International Union, in describing the coordinated, politically-driven attack on guaranteed-income retirement plans in the United States.
  • Reflecting CORPaTH’s international scope, Guilherme R. Valle of ABS Investment Advisors addressed the topic, “Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Challenges Facing Defined-Benefit Plans in South America.”
  • A panel titled “The Tale of the Tape: The Power of Assets, Fair Markets and Responsible Investment” featured CORPaTH Executive Director Ron Auer with Tom Croft of Heartland Strategies and Rob McGarrah, expert on sustainability issues at the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment.
  • Another panel, focusing on actions lawmakers can take to strengthen defined-benefit plans, included Dave Blitzstein, advisor to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC); Randy DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP); Darren Robbins, founding partner of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, and labor attorney and benefits expert Steve Stemerman.
  • “Defined-Benefit Pension Plans: Alignment of Interest” was the subject of a panel moderated by Gregg Hymowitz, co-founder and managing partner of EnTrust Capital, and including Peter Palandjian of Intercontinental Real Estate, Joe Sweeney of The Segal Company and Neal Wilkinson of Caisson Advisors.
  • Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State and chair of the UFCW & Employers Benefit Trust, led a discussion on “A Brand New Day for Defined-Benefit Plans” with
    Ron Auer, John Elliot, Gregg Hymowitz and Steve Stemerman.

The Think Tank’s formal program concluded with presentation of CORPaTH’s first Career Achievement Award to David Blitzstein, presidentially-appointed advisor to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. He was introduced by Bill McDonough, director of collective bargaining for the UFCW International Union.

Participants returned in the evening for the CORPaTH Awards Banquet. John Elliot of NEPC served as master of ceremonies at the event, which included presentations of CORPaTH Champion Awards to:

  • Randy DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP);
  • Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress;
  • Hank Kim, executive director and counsel for the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems; and
  • Chuck Mack, co-chair of the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Fund.

The thought-provoking day wrapped up with a hilarious performance by Mark DeMayo, a recently retired New York City policeman whose pension affords him the ability to engage in a successful career as a standup comedian.

As the participants headed for home, Ron Auer said:

“CORPaTH looks forward to planning our next event, which will draw even more people together for the purpose of reaching our common goals.

“We have the commitment, the resources and the passion to reverse the decline of defined-benefit pensions and chart a course toward a brighter future for working people.

“Our cause is as sacred as they come.”