A retired pastor goes to request his pension money, only to be told the funds are frozen, and a large portion of the principle is missing. What can the law help him and other retirees do about it?
Corruption within trusted institutions like churches is unacceptable. Such betrayals in safe places where people go for comfort and support must be exposed, and the wrongdoers held accountable.
A significant discrepancy has been found in the retirement funds of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC), jeopardizing potentially millions of dollars for thousands of church employees. A class-action lawsuit has been filed to investigate these enormous inconsistencies, and you can still join the suit if you were one of those affected.
Osborne & Francis is one of the law firms representing the AMEC pension fund contributors, including nearly a dozen former pastors. Contact us at (561) 293-2600 right away to discuss representation, and any questions you may have about your hard-earned money. For more information about the lawsuit, read on.
What Did the African Methodist Episcopal Church Do?
The details in this proposed class-action lawsuit include allegations of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and negligence. Relevant details are as follows:
- The African Methodist Episcopal Church, its pension fund caretakers, and two benefits administration companies are accused of lying about money in the church’s pension fund.
- Named defendants Rev. Jerome Harris, Newport Group Inc., and Symetra Financial Corp. are said to have "intentionally lied and misled" roughly 6,000 participants in the fund.
- Specifically, the lawsuit describes misinformation about how contributions to the fund were being used, and how much the fund was worth.
- At least three federal lawsuits have been filed in Florida, Maryland, and Virginia. These cases may be combined into one class-action suit, which is the hope of Florida attorney Greg Francis, since they address the same issue.
- The AME Church has acknowledged in an online statement posted to their website that retirement fund participants “may have been the victim of a financial crime."
Many working adults understand that pension funds involve money entrusted to an employer by employees to help support all eligible workers after they retire. Mismanaging these funds essentially robs hard-working individuals of the safety net they paid into regularly over a lifetime of faithful service.
“When you take advantage of my money, you lose my trust. You lose the trust of your employees.” - Rev. Charles Jackson
Who Filed This Lawsuit Against the Church?
The person who filed this lawsuit is retired pastor Rev. Charles Jackson. His statement from the proposed class-action lawsuit says that the accused “knew the truth” about the value of the pension fund, and misrepresented that information to himself and the other contributors to the fund. Rev. Jackson says, “The information they gave was false.”
Discrepancies in the fund were found after new management took over from the accused Rev. Harris. An audit revealed the fund's balance was significantly less than its previous quarterly statements had indicated. Although the exact amount of the missing funds is not disclosed, church leadership has suggested borrowing the sum of $45 million to account for "at least some of the missing money," according to the suit filing.
We at Osborne & Francis have a proven track record of successful verdicts and settlements—reach out to us at (561) 293-2600 for experienced representation against large institutions.
How Do I Know if I Was Affected by This Retirement Fund Mismanagement?
Affected AMEC clergy members were notified of these issues in October of 2021. If you have contributed to this pension fund, you may be eligible to join this legal action once it is certified by a judge as a class action case.
The lawsuits claim that plaintiffs and members of the AMEC community believe the losses exceed $100 million dollars (over 70% of the fund), and that participants were under the impression that the fund held $125 million dollars. This is money that was carefully set aside and saved for years by those who worked for the church, and this "shocking wrongdoing and mismanagement” will cause “untold financial, mental, and physical hardship."
Is it Possible to Join This Case?
Yes—our firm is currently representing about 10 former pastors of the church, and we can help determine your eligibility for the AMEC pension fund case. We strongly encourage you to join in seeking justice with your fellow church members and pension participants.
Joseph Osborne of the Osborne & Francis Law Firm is one of the attorneys handling this lawsuit. He understands that those impacted by this revelation have profound worries about these unsettling details. These concerns include questions about millions in hard-earned money, and whether it is missing, was invested inappropriately, or a combination of both.
Contact Osborne & Francis to discuss your situation right away by calling (561) 293-2600, or by filling out our online form to schedule your free consultation. We will help get you the information you need, and make sure your voice is represented in this lawsuit.If your trust was abused regarding retirement funds you worked your whole life to save, you have the right to take legal action. Join with your neighbors and fellows congregants to fully investigate this travesty, and demand back what is rightfully yours.