State leaders push for broader pension plan transparency

PROVIDENCE – Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, D-Providence, and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick, have introduced bills to require pension plans managed by religious organizations in Rhode Island to send regular updates on the financial health of the pensions to their plan participants.

Ruggerio and Shekarchi have introduced the legislation in their respective chambers. Public hearings have been scheduled for this month.

“All Rhode Island workers and retirees deserve to know the truth about the health of their pension plans,” Ruggerio said in a statement. “Too many hardworking caregivers and health professionals, who spent their careers serving their communities, have been hurt by a lack of transparency. We must ensure this never happens again.”

The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 requires most private pension plans to send members a letter each year outlining the health of their plan. However, pension plans administered by religious organizations have claimed exemptions from such reporting standards.

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“This common-sense legislation will ensure members and retirees of all Rhode Island pension plans have information about the health of their pension plans,” Shekarchi said.

General Treasurer Seth Magaziner announced his support of the bills.

“There are thousands of Rhode Islanders, including more than 2,700 current and retired employees of St. Joseph’s and Our Lady of Fatima hospitals, who have been kept in the dark regarding the health of their pension plan because of this loophole,” Magaziner said. “Church plans should be required to be transparent with their members, just like other pension plans.”

Until all pension plans in Rhode Island are required to provide such information, he said, there remains a risk that other church-run pension plans could conceal vital financial information from plan members.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at