John Friend explains Anusara handling of pension plan: ‘failure to comply with the law has been the result of mistakes – not intentional deception’
Elephant Journal has an “interview” (i.e., submitted questions and received written responses) with John Friend regarding the JFExposed allegations. There are no real denials. He admits having sex with Anusara women, married women. More on that later.
As to the financial issues regarding Anusara Inc.’s pension plan, Friend’s team released the following statement along with a few documents. Most of these are clearly the same docs that YogaDork posted. The docs that Anusara provided include a self-serving explanation of events, which is extracted here. The statement is basically an admission that ERISA was violated and argues that this is not so bad because there was no bad intent.
Recently there have been anonymous allegations regarding Anusara’s employee
pension plan that suggest unspecified “illegal” conduct, and raise inferences that employees were somehow cheated out of their benefits. The actual facts demonstrate that these allegations are distortions generated by a disgruntled former employee, whose pension funds are, and always have been, available to him.
To be clear, Anusara mistakenly failed to promptly notifY its employees of a modification of its pension plan, and has now corrected that mistake. The modification ofthe plan occurred as a result of negotiations with a third party who was making a loan to Anusara. There is nothing criminal/illegal about what happened. It was, at worst, an ineffective modification of the plan, that was remedied as soon as Anusara realized its mistake. No money is missing from the plan, and no employee was cheated out of benefits.
Anusara has historically had a defined benefit pension plan for its employees which is administered by a third-party pension administrator. The plan is funded by Anusara directly, as opposed to salary deductions taken from employees. The assets of the plan are invested and controlled by a third party professional.
In the summer of 20 1 0, as a condition of obtaining a loan, Anusara was required to “freeze” the funding and accrual of future benefits for all employees, including all of its officers. However, this plan modification did not effect, change or in any way alter, the pension benefits that had already been accrued by the employees up through the end of 2009.
Anusara believed it had to amend the plan and notify its employees of the amendment by the end of year 2010. In December 2010, Anusara called a meeting of its employees and gave them verbal notice that the company would not be funding the pension plan for 2010, or in the future, but that past vested benefits would not be affected.
One year later, in late December, 2011, Anusara received a letter from the U.S. Department of Labor stating that an employee has raised “questions concerning when he and other co-workers will receive individual benefit statements.” A copy of the Department of Labor letter is enclosed herewith. This is the only written correspondence that Anusara has received from the Department of Labor.
A few days later, Anusara received the annual pension statement from its pension administrator and distributed them along with written notice of the pension amendment to its employees. These documents were sent to the U.S. Department of Labor as shown by the attached letter. Anusara was still under the mistaken belief that it had properly and retroactively “frozen” the pension benefits to January 1,2010.
Subsequently, Anusara received a telephone call from the Department of Labor and was told that the plan amendment could not be retroactive and the attempted amendment ofthe pension benefits was ineffective due to the untimely notice. As a result, Anusara immediately began the whole pension amendment process anew.
On January 24, 2012, Anusara sent out proper notice to its employees stating the pension plan would be amended, and the pension “frozen,” as of March 1, 2012. That letter is attached.
All of Anusara’s actions relating to the pension have been taken in good faith. Its failure to comply with the law has been the result of mistakes – not intentional deception. The Department of Labor never took any adverse action against Anusara as a result of those mistakes.
On March 1,2012, Anusara’s defined benefits plan will be amended. The vested pension benefits of former and current Anusara employees will remain unaffected and, according to the Plan Administrator, sufficient funds exist in the pension plan to pay future benefits as identified by actuarial tables. All former Anusara vested employees will be given the opportunity to cash out their pension funds as allowed by law.
No current or fonner employees of Anusara have been financially injured by Anusara’ smistakes relating to the attempted pension amendment. In fact, the opposite is true – all employees will benefit financially because the pension benefits will continue to accrue for 24 months longer than Anusara intended.