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NC5 Investigates: Consumer Alert

Retirees Lose Life Insurance They Had Counted On

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By Jennifer Kraus
Consumer Investigator

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It used to be that you worked for one company your whole life. 

And long-time employees knew that even after they retired, the company would take care of them.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates has found former employees of a longtime Nashville printing company are now out of luck because their company changed hands -- and they're suddenly losing a benefit they had been promised and had been counting on.

Once a month, retirees from the old Baird Ward printing company get together at a Donelson area restaurant. They have lunch and a good time, remembering the good old days and the company where they spent not only their careers, but much of their lives.

They worked there anywhere from 27 to 43 years.

John McBride worked for Baird Ward for 28 years. When he retired 20 years ago, the company gave him a $15,000 life insurance policy -- which was to go to his wife. 

"I was hoping she'd bury me with," he said.

And for the last 20 years, he faithfully sent in the $52 annual premium, never missing a payment, even as the company repeatedly changed hands.

Two years ago, QuadGraphics, a Wisconsin-based printing conglomerate, took over.

QuadGraphics has more than 50 printing facilities around the world, including a plant in Nashville. Two months ago, the company released its first quarter earnings, showing net sales at $990 million, and a recurring cash flow of more than $100 million.

"Doesn't look like they're doing too bad, does it?" McBride said after seeing those figures.

But just two weeks after announcing those figures to investors, McBride got a letter from QuadGraphics saying his life insurance coverage was being discontinued, due to "today's difficult economic climate." 

"We paid all this money and get nothing back," McBride said.

And it wasn't just McBride who suddenly discovered that his $15,000 policy was gone.

So did many of the other retirees who gather each month for lunch at the restaurant. L.J. Vann, 84, and his wife Peggy both worked for the company and lost even more. 

"About $26 or $27,000," Peggy Vann told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

So did Betty Vick and her husband, Henry. 

Retiree Ron Easler said, "You're getting up where you're not going to live too many more years, you think you're going to collect it and they just pull the rug out from under you."

QuadGraphics told NewsChannel 5 that it was a "difficult decision," but that the life insurance was something offered by a previous owner and is not something QuadGraphics gives its own workers.

A spokesperson said that the company felt it was in its best interest to provide the same benefits to everyone and use the insurance money elsewhere.

                                                                  Read statement from Quadgraphics

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates found corporate filings showing that CEO Joel Quadracci's total compensation last year was worth more than $4 million -- including cash bonus, almost $11,000 in club dues, a personal assistant, personal use of a corporate jet, security for his family, an $8,000 car allowance, and a nearly $43,000 contribution to his retirement account. 

"Baird Ward would never ever have done what they have done," retiree Harold Cole said.

The hurt and anger among the retirees is painfully obvious.

"It was just a rotten thing for them to do," Earl Eskew said.

But they also have hope that QuadGraphics will re-instate their insurance policies so their families will be taken care of when they're gone.

"If they would just do what was humanly right and decent," Eskew added.

The retirees said that they'd be happy just to get their premiums back, which for most of them would be about $1,500.

But, at this point, it doesn't even look like that's going to happen. 

QuadGraphics said that, when it bought the company two years ago, the pension program was at risk and so they're funding it now. While that is great for other folks who worked for the company, it doesn't help these retirees who left 20 or more years ago. 

Most of them opted for a lump sum when they retired.

E-mail: jkraus@newschannel5.com

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