Washington Mutual Holds Pension Funds

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Since January, Kate has been trying to extract her pension money from Washington Mutual. This morning was the fourth time attempting to get the company Washington Mutual uses for its pension funds to simply send her the forms to request the pension disbursement to her Individual Retirement Account.

This morning came the most interesting excuse yet: because she was working for Great Western Bank, which was then acquired by WaMu, her pension request was being held.

Why? Apparently, someone sued Washington Mutual on behalf of Great Western over pension funds and Kate was entitled to some money from that lawsuit.

How much? No one knows; the company has to manually calculate the amount.

When will they know the amount? They can provide a status in two days. Not an answer, mind you. Just a status.

Can they disperse the money from the Washington Mutual part of the pension – the only part she cares about – and leave the Great Western portion until later? No.

Can she get the disbursement papers on-line so she can complete them? No. They must be mailed to the home (not certified or anything, just mailed…).

Can she at least get the disbursement request papers mailed so she can complete her portion of the work (including the spousal waiver to put the funds in her IRA that needs to be notarized)? No. The disbursement amount has to be included in the request and they have to manually determine the amount.

Let’s bottom line this:

  • Since January, 2008, this company has not sent disbursement papers requested through one on-line request and two phone calls to agents of the company, even though the agents said the paperwork would be to us within seven days.
  • There has been no mention of this lawsuit in any interaction with the company until today, 9-months after the initial request.
  • The company is unable to calculate the disbursement and cannot even provide a time-frame where the disbursement amount will be known.
  • And unless we continually harass them through phone calls, they will just continue to hold the money until??

And bankers and pundits wonder why money in a mattress is a good alternative to placing your hard earned cash in a financial institution.

This certainly doesn’t improve my outlook on the company. When my completed disbursement request was  sent in, including the notarized spousal waiver, they resent the forms weeks later saying they never got the spousal waiver. Another trip to the Notary Public and another delay of a month getting the money out.

Now, you can consider this a rant about Washington Mutual and you’d be correct. But there are implications for all Cubicle Warriors:

  • When you are laid off, you have created a project that must be completed. That project is difficult because you still have to deal with all the emotions that come along with being laid off, no matter how prepared you are for the event.
  • Persistence is required because most people do not know the rules of the road when it comes to getting your money from these companies. You don’t know the questions to ask and you don’t know the process these companies follow. That’s frustrating.
  • It is important to have an inventory of what you need to take with you before you leave the company. You won’t remember what all of those things are without a checklist.

Learn from this experience before you experience it yourself. What experiences have you had where you needed persistence to conquer these hurdles?

  • I have been trying for two years to pull my funds from WAMU pension and still have not been able to do so.. I was a Dime employee and Itried to get my funds and they still can’t tell me how much I have in the fund and they have blocked me from getting a lump sum saying that the option is not available.. I have sent an appeal to the board and of course they found some excuse not to grant my request.

    • Did you ever hear back fro them? I too am a former DIME employee who is trying to track down my pension. It is not much, but I worked for it- I know WAMU went to Chase- Any info you can provide would be great.

  • @Scottish Girl – The “December 1st” thing is timing. If you take the forms out in October and they receive them back in October, they will distribute December 1st. That’s the same situation here. For whatever legal rules, they get another month to distribute the money.

    Make very sure you get them the forms back (even send them faster than regular mail) before the end of October or you miss the window for December distribution.

    I’m not surprised at the amount of time to get through; there are a lot of people concerned about the pensions and are calling.

  • Scottish Girl says:

    Hi again Scott…..after holding for an hour my call was answered by Wa Mu…(I told you I have tenacity)then they put me on hold, then they claimed I didn’t qualify until next year (at which time I would be 65)and this pension was available to me at 55. After being on the phone with the contact for 30 more minutes and several delays, I was advised “I MUST TAKE THIS BEGINNING DECEMBER 1, 2008
    I instructed them to send me the forms and was told all the information that I qualify for (cash distribution or monthly annuity) would be provided. According to information I have received previously I am not eligible for “Cash Distribution”. I should receive the forms within 7-10 days.

    I will advise you upon receipt of the forms (not sure I will hold my breath) I am an optimist…..normally…….thanks again….

  • Scottish Girl says:

    @Scot – I am currently on the phone HOLDING FOR THE EMPLOYEE PENSION [email protected] 869 3779. of course I have now been holding for 15 minutes so I doubt my call will be answered.

    I have my pension amount in writing from both Great Western Bank and Washington Mutual….so I know the amount I am due.
    The amazing part of all of this is that earlier in the year JP Morgan offered to buy WaMu and pay $4.00 per share of stock.
    Kerry Killenger declined the offer as not being substantial…….at that point I began to think that he and the Board should be fired.

    I don’t believe that the Fed had to step in…and by doing so they only made it easy for JPMorgan to get the company they had courted without the liabilities…..all the leases were voided on Wa Mu sites, the stock elmininated and who knows what else.
    Scot, thank you for your prompt response to my concern.
    I just sent an e-mail to Bill O’Reilly….I have great tenacity and will not let this go……it won’t be my first battle with a company that cost me my health, now my stock, and who knows my pension.

  • Scottish Girl says:

    I am a former Great Western Employee of over 30 years and next year had planned to file for my pension. I am legally disabled and therefore had not applied. Today, I went to the website for our Pension Fund information and found only a Class Action suit no information on my personal account. This is ugly especially since over my career I had Stock which was wiped out a week ago…..I had been assured that Pension funds were seperate and would be available …Now What?

    • @Scottish Girl – Well, the update on our account was that four days after this post, we were notified that the pension papers were coming. Today we completed them and sent them back. Interestingly, nothing with Great Western previous employment was mentioned in the papers, nor was the amount different from our WaMu total.

      Overall, the news on WaMu pensions with the takeover from JPMorgan Chase is this: the pensions did not go with Chase, they stayed with the WaMu holding company…that went bankrupt the day after the takeover.

      Now, JPMorgan Chase is apparently requesting the bankruptcy judge to give them the 401(k) and pension parts to them so they can keep current employees whole. I do not have an update to that.

      Regardless, if you need your pension, you should apply. We were told that the pension amount needed to be individually determined at the request time and that would take some time. If, as they say, the class action suit is settled, the pension company should be able to calculate your pension amount.

      So, your stock is gone, but the pension, I think, should be whole. I would be curious on your result, so if you could stop back here and provide an update, myself and others, I’m sure, would appreciate it.

  • I’ve got another one for you. I signed up for a benefit through my company — a pre-paid legal program. Now, I am gladly paying for this program — I’ve had to deal with the legal system a few times in my life and paying a few bucks each month to get something paid for [that can be very expensive] is a good deal.

    But the other day I was looking through the “terms and conditions” and found out that I can not use this service [that I pay for with post tax dollars and my company does not kick in a dime] to deal with any employment issues. Good news for the company, bad news for me.

    • @Arnie – Yes, the terms and conditions. It’s only good for people not your employer!

      Good point and thanks for the comment.

  • Warriors, this is not the only financial mess we’re dealing with. Another key part of your checklist should be not only to have money in savings, but to make sure that you have money stashed in several places at the same time. That way, if one institution’s policies suddenly prevent you from getting to your funds, you can turn to a different stash elsewhere. And trust me, with the USA Patriot Act and other such legislation in place, banks are allowed to hold funds, prevent withdrawals, delay credits to your account(s), and a whole host of other hoops that in the end could cost you serious chunks of money, patience, and time.

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