partially win in fight over Qwest pensions
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Retirees won limited victories in Denver federal court
against Qwest Communications and the U.S. Labor Department
in a protracted fight to get more information about the
management of their retirement funds. On Friday, Chief
Justice Lewis Babcock ordered Qwest to turn over its
investment policy guidelines to the retirees. In a separate
ruling, he ruled that the Labor Department, which
investigated the Denver telco's pension fund, must turn over
certain documents for his review to decide if they should be
"These are two good rulings," said Curtis Kennedy, attorney
for the Association of U S West Retirees. "On both
occasions we've had to fight to find out what went on.
We're going to get to the bottom of it."
Kennedy noted Babcock in particular used colorful language
to criticize the Labor Department for withholding
information requested under the federal Freedom of
Babcock wrote that plaintiff Mimi Hull's "cumulative
evidence shows a disturbing trend of agency behavior . . .
and indicates that the DOL was not behaving in the spirit of
FOIA, providing information in an open fashion to enable
citizens to hold their government accountable."
The retirees, however, lost on some of their motions to see
certain information from Qwest and the Labor Department.
Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said the company doesn't comment
about pending litigation. A Labor Department spokesman
indicated the same.
U S West retirees filed the suit last year, challenging the
Labor Department's refusal to turn over documents related to
an investigation of Qwest's pension fund. All but 500 of
6,000 pages in the dispute eventually were released.
The retirees were concerned by the decline in the value of
Qwest's pension fund and wanted explanations for certain
decisions, including a $68 million investment that quickly
dwindled to $700,000.
The Labor Department disclosed last summer that during the
course of a three-year investigation it found Qwest had
improperly charged $83,321 of company expenses to the
employee pension plan. Qwest reimbursed the expenses, plus
In July, documents obtained by the retirees under an FOIA
request showed the Labor Department considered but decided
not to take legal action against Qwest in connection with
the telco paying more than $400 million of severance
benefits out of the employee pension fund between 2000 and