Oregon PERS Retirees File Lawsuit to Stop Release of Pension Data

November 7, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Public employee retirees in Oregon have filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to prevent the public release of their individual pension benefits later this month, reports The Oregonian. 
The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of union and retiree groups that was angered when the Oregon Public Employees System (PERS) reached a settlement with two newspapers—The Oregonian and the Salem Statesman-Journal—to release the names and monthly benefits of 110,000 retirees on November 21.

Kathleen Beaufait, a board member of the Oregon PERS Retirees told The Oregonian that many retirees are afraid the release of the data would increase their vulnerability to identity theft, while others see it as an invasion of privacy.

Portland attorney Greg Hartman filed the lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court on behalf of seven retirees identified by their initials. He said he would seek a hearing before November 21 asking a judge to issue an injunction barring the release of the data. Hartman said that while the issue has generated several conflicting legal opinions, no one has had a judge weigh in on whether the information should be kept private. He added that his clients would not object to the release of individual salary data, as long as the names were not attached to the data.  

PERS’ refusal to release the data at the request of the newspapers was originally upheld by then-Attorney General Hardy Myers. However, his successor John Kroger ordered the agency to release the records of retirees with annual benefits exceeding $100,000 to The Oregonian. He also partially supported a request from the Statesman-Journal seeking information on all retirees.

The agency did not follow the attorney general’s order, and instead hired outside counsel and went to court to block the release. The newspapers eventually reached a settlement with PERS.

The article adds that the Oregonian also plans to intervene with the new lawsuit.