SEC Won't Require Aetna to Face Retiree Dental Shareholder Vote

February 18, 2005 ( - The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced that it will not require Aetna Inc. to hear a shareholder vote on the company's move to discontinue its retiree dental plan.

The SEC told the company – which is facing pressure from retirees over the company’s decision to cut dental coverage from its benefits package – that it would not recommend action against the company if it omits the dental question from its April annual meeting, according to the Hartford Courant.

Aetna had asked the SEC in December to confirm that no action would be taken if the issue was not addressed. Saying that is was an “ordinary business operation” – which would relieve the company of being required to put the issue on the agenda – Aetna made it clear that it did not want to address the issue at the annual meeting.

Aetna pulled the plug on its retiree dental plan in order to reduce operating costs, according to the company. Retirees, led by the Aetna Retirees Association chairman John Dwyer, claim that the company had more than $1 billion on earnings in 2004, and shouldn’t have to make such a change.

“People are angry, they’re hurt, they’re disappointed,” Dwyer told the Courant. “In many cases, they’re just ashamed that a company they spent 30 or 40 years with would do this.” The group accuses the company of breaking its benefits promise; Aetna claims it has always reserved the right to alter benefits. The company has also claimed that it has offered to continue a group dental plan if retirees are wiling to pay the whole premium, a move that would, if nothing else, get retirees cheaper packages than if they went at it alone.