New Bankruptcy Reform Bills Spare ERISA Assets

February 5, 2001 ( - Bankruptcy reform legislation is back in the Congress, but pensions appear to be safe for now according to the American Benefits Council.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced S. 220 on January 30, and Representative George Gekas (R-PA) introduced HR 333 on January 31.  Both bills extend the bankruptcy protection currently enjoyed by ERISA retirement plans to:

  • non-ERISA 403(b) plans
  • 457 plans
  • IRAs.

Currently, creditors cannot attach qualified plan assets, such as 401(k) account balances, while they remain in the plan.  Some versions of the bankruptcy reform bills introduced over the past couple of years would have subjected these balances to that risk in the event of participant bankruptcy, subject to certain dollar limits.

The reintroduced bills do contain a provision that would allow creditors to reach IRA assets in excess of $1 million, but excludes amounts attributed to rollovers from employer plans – effectively making the exception moot, James Delaplane, Vice President, Retirement Policy for the Council told

The legislation is expected to be considered on an expedited schedule and should easily pass both the House and Senate. President Bush has already indicated that he will sign the measure.

– Nevin Adams

For more on previous bankruptcy reform legislation, see:

Retirement Assets Might Escape Creditor Clutches