Despite the recent wave of difficulties facing multi-employer pension plans in other industries, Hollywood’s are on relatively sound financial footing, according to an analysis conducted for Deadline by the Illinois-based Society of Actuaries. And that’s good news for the industry’s retirees and future pensioners.
“Multi-employer pension plans have faced funding challenges across industries, but several of the entertainment industry plans go against the trend and show above-average funded status,” said Lisa Schilling, the Society’s retirement research actuary. “The DGA plan has the highest funding level of the five plans analyzed, at 98%. The WGA and AFTRA plans both exceed the industry average funding level of about 85%. The SAG plan is about average at 84% percent, and only the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan falls below average at 72%.”
That means that all five of the industry’s multi-employer pension plans are in the so-called “Green Zone,” meaning that their funding levels are not critical or endangered and should be able to meet all current and future obligations.
On average, Schilling found, WGA and DGA retirees receive the largest annual pensions – $32,000. The average SAG pensioner receives $19,400, the average AFTRA retiree receives $15,600, and the average retiree of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan receives $17,000 a year.
Combined, the industry’s five multi-employer pension plans have more than $14 billion in assets and nearly $17 billion in liabilities, leaving a funding gap of nearly $3 billion. Half of that under-funding, however, belongs to the industry’s largest and most underfunded plan, the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, which covers Hollywood members of IATSE, Teamsters Local 399 and the Basic Crafts.
The SAG Pension Plan, which was rocked by an embezzlement scandal in 2009, “is in good financial health and funded just below the multi-employer industry funding average of 85%,” Schilling said, basing her analysis on the plans’ latest annual reports – called Forms 5500, which are filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. “The SAG Plan has $3.6 billion in assets against $4.3 billion in benefit liabilities. The $700 million funding gap is unchanged from the previous year. There are 24,897 active participants and 12,492 retirees currently receiving pension benefits.”
The AFTRA Retirement Fund, which was hit by a nearly identical fake invoice embezzlement scheme that resulted in indictments earlier this year, “has $2.8 billion pension liabilities against $2.4 billion in plan assets, leaving a $400 million funding shortfall,” Schilling said. “There are 21,404 active participants and 10,277 retirees currently receiving pension benefits.”
The DGA Pension Plan, which is the smallest of the five, has $1.54 billion in assets, $1.57 billion in liabilities and $30 million in unfunded liabilities. It has 6,731 active participants and 2,576 retirees currently receiving pension benefits.
The WGA Pension Plan has $2.8 billion in assets; $3.2 billion in plan benefit liabilities, and a $400 million funding gap. It has 7,257 active participants and 4,296 retirees currently receiving pension benefits.
The Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan has $3.7 billion in assets; $5.1 billion plan benefit liabilities, and a $1.5 billion funding shortfall. There are 47,552 active participants and 16,372 retirees currently receiving pension benefits.
According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which insures private pensions, some 1.5 million Americans are currently receiving PBGC payments because they were covered by failed pension plans. The PBGC projects that pension plans now covering another 1 million workers and retirees are on track to go broke within the next 20 years.