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Judge: Pilots can divorce to get lump sum, remarry same spouse

densoo

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Look for a run on the A-Fund, leading to an underfunded status, leading to no lump sum. According to the retirement plan, a divorce triggers distribution of retirement funds. Several pilots "divorced," got the lump sum, then remarried. CAL went after them.
Judge tosses suit saying pilots got sham divorces

October 19, 2009 - 501pm

By HARRY R. WEBER
AP Airlines Writer

ATLANTA (AP) - A federal judge Monday tossed out a Continental Airlines Inc. lawsuit accusing nine pilots of getting sham divorces so their ex-spouses could collect the pilots' retirement benefits while they kept flying.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller said he can't condone the pilots' alleged actions.

But he ruled that the law doesn't allow Continental's pension administrator to consider the employees' motivation for getting divorced in deciding whether to distribute benefits.

Miller granted the pilots' motion to dismiss.
There was no immediate response from a spokeswoman for Houston-based Continental, which said it paid out between $10 million and $11 million in suspicious pension distributions. Some individual payments were as much as $900,000, according to court papers.

The airline said some of the pilots concealed the divorces from children and friends, then remarried their spouses after getting the money.

The pilots in question all obtained divorces from various states with domestic relations orders that assigned 100 percent, and in one case 90 percent, of their retirement benefits under the plan to their spouses.

The retirement plan qualified the domestic relations orders and, because the pilots were of retirement age when the alternate payees requested a lump-sum payout, the plan paid the benefits.

Miller said "the facts show--and the pilots do not seem to contest--that the pilots and their former spouses did not behave in a manner consistent with the breakup of a marriage."

He said many of the pilots continued to cohabitate, remarried soon after obtaining the lump-sum payout and all essentially conducted themselves as if the divorce had never happened.

But the judge said none of that was relevant to the issue at hand.
He said "the administrator may not refuse to qualify a domestic relations order based on criteria not present in the statute."

The judge added that "the court finds that the motivation or good faith of the divorce and resulting domestic relations order is not an enumerated requirement."

As of the time the suit was filed, eight of the pilots had been fired or quit. One was rehired after he promised to pay back the retirement money, the airline said--although he too was named as a defendant after failing to repay. The spouses were also named as defendants.

The airline and the committee that runs its pilots' retirement plan filed the lawsuit in federal court in Houston.

Continental asked the court to order the pilots to return the money and to declare that the company was not violating anti-discrimination laws in firing the pilots.

Continental charged that the pilots--seven men and two women--tried to take advantage of a loophole in a major federal pension law that in cases of divorce allows payment of benefits before the worker retires.

Several airlines have terminated pension plans and turned them over to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., and the Continental pilots might have feared the same thing could happen at their carrier.

Continental said it began receiving "a significant number" of requests for lump-sum pension payouts to ex-spouses of working pilots beginning in late 2005, and by mid-2007 the airline learned that the couples usually remarried after getting the money.

Other pilots besides the nine named in the lawsuit apparently tried the same ploy, according to the lawsuit. In some cases, the company stopped payments before they were made.

(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
 
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Flopgut

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This will be interesting. Hopefully the ones who don't want to, or can't go through a divorce will retire.
 

Paul R. Smith

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I'd rather they retired but good for them. Divorcing their spouse means I still get to hear them gloat about their a-fund until December 2012.
 

densoo

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This will be interesting. Hopefully the ones who don't want to, or can't go through a divorce will retire.
Yes, it could get interesting. There is now no barrier to the senior folks taking their lump sum now, rather than worry about whether it is going to be there or not in the next BK, merger, or if the fund is underfunded and can't pay. I don't know how the annuity works. If it is dependent at all on the CAL's stability, it could be sent over the PBGC in a heartbeat. It is now been established as legal to divorce, take distribution of the money, and get remarried, keep on flying with no repurcussions.

If the pilots with an A-Fund fear a run on the plan, a boatload of them might just up and retire, no divorce involved, for fear that if they don't, too many others might beat them to it and they might end up with just the annuity.

Most of pilots have very little in the Fund and about one-third have zero.
 
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Phrogs4ever

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Let the flood gates open! Last one standing when the music stops is SOL. Maybe this is the year I spot the Great Pumpkin and the ever elusive mythical MOAB.
 

nimtz

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YEA!!! Scabs attempt to d!ck fellow pilots for personal greed and court says okay! Feels like 1985 all over again...
 

densoo

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YEA!!! Scabs attempt to d!ck fellow pilots for personal greed and court says okay! Feels like 1985 all over again...
This could cause a lot of senior pilots to move on finally bringing some upward mobility to the rest of the group, recall of furloughts, and maybe even hiring.
 

becket

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Pilots finally win one. What are we supposed to do? Sit by and watch companies steal our pensions with no recourse? F-that. All is fair in love and war. Besides, airlines go to the ends of the earth to steal whatever they can from whomever they can, for as long as they want and there is never any consequences.

This was just a little taste of their own medicine.
 

Flopgut

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The number of CAL pilots involved in this is quite small. However, it's probably about 90% of the CAL pilots with an A plan AND a spouse they trust!! There's going to be a lot of guys worried about the lump sum wishing that wife number 2 [3, 4 or whatever] could be trusted to remarry them or even give them one dime. This is going to be fun to watch.

Their on their own. The union is done helping them.
 

densoo

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Pilots finally win one. What are we supposed to do? Sit by and watch companies steal our pensions with no recourse? F-that. All is fair in love and war. Besides, airlines go to the ends of the earth to steal whatever they can from whomever they can, for as long as they want and there is never any consequences.

This was just a little taste of their own medicine.
While this may seem like a win against the man, it is far from it. This is case of the pilots stealing the pension from their own pilots.

The A-Fund belongs to the pilots who have a promise of future money in it. The company funds it based on a schedule of predictable retirements. Pilots raiding the fund when they're not at retiring is unpredictable.

If the Fund is underfunded as a result, the lump sum option gets terminated. The remaining pilots who didn't take their money before retirement would be left with the annuity. Not sure how the annuity is funded over time, but in BK even the annuity might go to the PBGC.

If there is a run on the fund by sham divorces or by eligibles jumping ship early because of the sham divorces, this is going to hurt the pilots not the company.

This is the same group that signed a blank check to the company on the last contract, sold out the bottom third of the pilot group by closing the pension fund on them, keeping a b-scale in place, denying them medical coverage as new hires, and the list goes on. All done, ironically, to protect their retirement.

They've run out of people to raid so now they're raiding themselves, their own friends, classmates, peer group.

It shouldn't be a surprise though. They learned from the best--CAL management....the legal fees to sue these pilots did not come from CAL, it came from the retirement fund itself! Apparently there is a clause that allows use of the Fund to defend the Fund. Not a dime came from CAL. It all came from the pilots retirement fund, bringing it ever closer to underfunded status.

But not to worry, these nine got theirs.
 
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crxpilot

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Forget the A fund...................if I can swindle my wife to give me an uncontested divorce............I win!
 

andyd

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All this and not a word about the "sanctity" of marriage? The same right wing nuts afraid that the gays are going to destroy marriage will be the first hypocrites to play the game.
 

IAHERJ

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Exactly, I got to fly with one of these nutz up to ANC a few weeks ago. Had to listen to his tales about the Tea Parties he attends etc... He wants the Government completely out of his health care!!!!! Until he turns 65 that is... He doesn't think Medicare is run by the government. He coughed and sneezed and blew his nose all the way up there all the time saying that he "had allergies". Well, I ended up with bronchitis last week and had to go to the doctor etc. and pay for medication. Lucky I never got called to fly on my last 6 days of reserve or I would have had to burn sick days due to this idiot who just can't call in sick and use that valuable sick time he plans to use to bridge his medical with until he goes on the non federal health care we all call Medicare..... So sick of these right winger "glad to have a job" hillbillies I have to fly with from time to time in IAH. Makes the 1 trip every 45 days I have to fly miserable.... That was for you SFR
 

Flopgut

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There are a greater number of decent pilots who will retire if they think the lump sum will go away. The ERW a year ago collected a 150. Hopefully, this will get double that to number to retire.
 

ultrarunner

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If I recall, the same thing happened at Delta before their retirement plan went up in smoke. Might even have been a management-pilot.

The General will fill us in.
 

SFR

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Sweet deal!!! I am still waiting to fly. I kinda feel left out you know... I feel like CAL does not like me because they never call.




NOT!!!
 
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