Non-Profit Discovering Millions in Lost Pension Benefits

A club is on a mission to connect people with thousands of dollars in pension money they aren’t aware they are entitled to.

Pension money from the former Connecticut Bank and Trust (CBT) has been long forgotten, however, there are many more companies involved.

Former Connecticut Bank and Trust branch manager Don Wilson thought when CBT’s parent company, the Bank of New England, failed in 1991, his pension went up in smoke.

But in 2015 at the CBT Alumni Club Christmas party, when co-workers asked if the former Hartford branch manager was receiving his pension, Wilson said “no”. It wasn’t too long after that Wilson got a back pension payment of $8,000 and now gets a monthly check for $700 the rest of his life.

Noreen Cullen sits on the board of the CBT Alumni Club and says in the past decade the club has found $3 million in pensions for well over 600 former employees, or their surviving family members, “Some people call me crying to tell me that, they have this, they're sitting with a check for forty thousand dollars.”

Cullen, a geneologist, has undertaken the difficult task of reconnecting former co-workers with long-lost pensions. She estimates there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people still out there without their pension money, potentially millions of dollars that remain unclaimed.

Cullen explains people lost track of their pensions because of company mergers and acquisitions, the bank failure itself, subsequent lawsuits and lost or missing records.

The money was found at:

• Aetna

• Fidelity

• New York Life

• John Hancock

• Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or PBGC, which is the federal agency that holds pension monies left behind by larger, often failed companies.

The PBGC said when CBT’s parent company failed, it had pension funds in the tens of millions of dollars-- more than enough to pay everyone. The PBGC said it now has hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension monies owed to 790 employees of CBT and its parent company. It tries to contact people at their last known address, phone number and email.

The NBC Troubleshooters reached out to the financial companies. Aetna, New York Life and John Hancock said a majority of the people due to receive pensions from their respective companies have been located and they make efforts to contact the people still owed CBT pensions. Fidelity said it also reaches out to people still owed CBT pensions as they near retirement age, but they cannot confirm if it currently has any unclaimed pensions.

Cullen does not want to focus on what happened with the CBT pensions; she just wants to get them back to people like former CBT branch manager Wilson.

Cullen said it’s important to not that anyone who has worked at a defunct Connecticut company, including Caldor or Ames, can go to the PBGC website, for information about pensions owed to employees. People can search the website by with their name.

The CBT Alumni Club also wants to help. The club has set up a special number for questions about pension money (860)788-5900 or you can reach the club on their website

he club wants to help anyone who worked for CBT, or Bank of New England. The club is also willing to guide people from any Connecticut company who are trying to use the PBGC website.

Below are the full statements on the CBT pensions from the PBGC and the financial institutions involved:

New York Life
 “New York Life is committed to meeting the promises we make, which includes paying pension obligations to more than 1,000 former employees of Bank of New England and Connecticut Bank and Trust. Any former employee who has questions about their payments may call New York Life at (800) 695-0462.” -Jason Weinzimer, VP & Head of External Communications

“Aetna has supported the “CBT/BNE” pension plan (Plan) for nearly 30 years. Through the Plan, Aetna currently manages the pensions of more than 1,200 people. At this point, we have fewer than 50 people in the Plan that have not started receiving their pension. The vast majority of this group of 50 people have not reached the age where we begin our outreach to members in the Plan (three months before their 65th birthday – the age at which they would be eligible for benefits). There are only 6 people who have attained the eligibility age but have not started their benefit, and we have made multiple attempts to reach out to these individuals. When a member reaches that age, we automatically send them a letter (including Aetna contact information) informing them of the benefits available to them. If we do not hear back, we make multiple additional attempts through various means to contact the individual. The Aetna team makes a concerted effort to reach members in the Plan who may be entitled to benefits. Even if our sustained outreach is not initially successful, the benefits remain available to the member. If at a later time we successfully make contact with a member or their family, we honor our commitment and provide them the benefits to which they are entitled. Over the years, we have also received many requests from CBT/BNE individuals who are not associated with the Aetna Plan. In these situations, we make every effort to direct them to several different resources to try to identify where their pension may be located.” -Ethan Slavin, Aetna Communications

Fidelity Investments
“We send notifications to pensioners as they are nearing retirement to ensure they are taking their benefits in a timely manner. We comply with all regulations governing pension administration and all pensioners have access to their pension through our on line tools as well as our call center.” - Stephen Austin, Spokesman

John Hancock
“We’ve looked into this matter and believe we have one contract in-force that may be related to your query. That contract had a few hundred participants at the time of sale with the majority already receiving their retirement benefits and a small group in a deferred status awaiting to attain normal retirement age to begin receiving retirement benefits. Deferred status refers to someone not yet in pay status. They could be in deferred status as (i) they have not yet reached the eligible age to commence benefits, (ii) they may be able to delay commencement of benefits based on their plan requirements and the group annuity contract, (iii) they have not responded to requests for information to process their benefit, (iv) they are being located, or (v) they were not located and their benefit is being tracked for escheatment purposes. Currently, there is only one participant in a deferred status under that contract. John Hancock utilizes several resources to get up-to-date information and locate deferred participants. John Hancock’s process involves sending a series of letters to notify deferred participants of their benefit options. We also utilize a third-party vendor to locate deferred participants. Based on a quick review of our information, fewer than 20 individuals under a group annuity contract that may be related to former BNE employees eligible to receive retirement benefit payments from John Hancock have not been located.”-Melissa Berczuk, John Hancock Corporate Communications

Facts on the Bank of New England Pension Distribution
“There were approximately 16,000 participants covered by the Bank of New England Plans. The Bank of New England, which was in FDIC receivership, terminated the plans with sufficient assets to pay all the benefits that were due, and certified that all participants owed a benefit were paid. Pension benefits were distributed either by the purchase of annuities from private insurers or through direct distributions to participants. In addition to plan benefits, an additional $38 million in excess plan assets were distributed to plan participants. At the time of distribution, the benefits of about 1,100 people who could not be located were sent to PBGC. These funds are not necessarily the result of litigation. The Bank of New England transferred 1,100 missing participants to PBGC who were owed $1.38 million in benefits. PBGC’s Missing Participant Program still has benefits for 790 participants under the Bank of New England. In addition, 203 missing participants from the “New Bank of New England” (successor to Bank of New England run by FDIC for six months in 1991…) were transferred to PBGC and were owed $159,000 in benefits. PBGC continually engages in outreach efforts to find all missing participants.” -Marc Hopkins, PBGC Spokesman

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