Fight For Your Retirement The Jack Klugman Way

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Quincy has taken his detective skills to the real world. Jack Klugman, the actor who portrayed televisions beloved medical examiner claims that something isn’t right with NBC’s (GE) accounting. He has filed suit against the company for a breach of his 1976 contract with NBC that entitles him and his company, Sweater Productions, to 25% of the net profits of his long-running (1976-1983) show, Quincy, M.E.


According to the lawsuit, NBC has provided paperwork documenting that the series lost $66 million through 2006. However, Klugman believes that they are lying and that the show has made money. “I recently heard that they made $250 million, and it’s still on TV in Germany,” said Mr. Klugman, 85. “I don’t want their money. I want my money. I worked my tail off. I got up at four in the morning and stayed at the studio. I did rewrite. I edited.”


To be cut out of money that was the result of hard work and dedication is disheartening and devastating to many people whether it is a couple hundred or millions of dollars in question. For this reason, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was established in 1974 to establish minimum standards for established pension plans and to protect the individuals in these plans.


On thing that ERISA protects contributors to retirement funds is 401(k) fraud. There are a number of ways that employers can commit fraud but, the Act protects the employees from being permanently hurt by any of them.


Jeffrey Robertson, an attorney with Barran Liebman LLP in Portland, Ore., says there are three main ways that employers commit fraud against contributors to a 401(k) plan. Employers can withdraw the agreed upon dollar amount from an employees paycheck but never invest it into the 401(k) plan or they can illegally borrow money from an employee’s 401(k) plan. Employers can make an agreement with an investment agency to receive a cut for using that bank as part of the 401(k). (Under ERISA, employers are not allowed to make a profit from 401(k) plans). And, employers can knowingly use a poor choice of investment fund for their 401(k) program.


The first form of fraud is the most common and most pertinent to participants. It is also the easiest to detect, according to Robertson. He says that it comes down to people reading their 401(k) statements, and reading them thoroughly, rather then scanning for the bottom line or simply throwing them away. “People should be reading each statement to make sure that the correct amount of money was withdrawn from their paycheck and that same amount was then invested into the 401(k) plan.”


Gloria Della, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor, warns contributors that something may not be right with the way that an employer is handling 401(k) contributions if they notice any of the following warning signs including: continual lateness of the 401(k) statement, former employees having trouble getting their benefits paid on time, and an employer experiencing severe financial trouble.


The experts agree that if fraud has taken place, it is important to take appropriate action. “You should gather your documents including paystubs that can be cross referenced with your investment statements and bring them to your employer,” says Jay Berger, a certified financial planner with Independent Wealth Management in Traverse City, Mich. “But, don’t go in accusing anyone of fraud. You should ask for an explanation of why the numbers don’t match and work up the system from there.”


If an employer’s answer about why the numbers do not match is unsatisfactory, it is time to bring the case to the Department of Labor. Again, it is best to have the proper documentation before filing a claim. Robertson says, “It is easier for the DOL [Department of Labor] to lay out a case when they have facts rather than assumptions.”


Once a claim is filed with them, the Department of Labor reviews the facts and either deems it credible or not. According to Robertson, if the claim is deemed credible, the Department of Labor will generally ask the employer to replace the participant in the position they would have been if the actions in question had not taken place. If the claim is not deemed credible and the participant still believes that there has been fraud, Robertson says that they would then want to consult an attorney and take out a lawsuit against the employer.


Or, they could just ask their friendly neighborhood medial examiner for help.

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