Statement by the President Upon Signing the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act.
I HAVE APPROVED S. 2888, the "Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act," because it establishes a precedent of federal responsibility in this area. It does little else.
This bill deals with only a narrow segment of the total labor-management program. And even in this narrow segment it fails to provide necessary protection for the 85 million working men and women, whose interest in welfare and pension plans amounts to more than $30 billion. The Congress has failed to respond effectively to the pleas for action in this field, and I am sure that the public is as disappointed with it as I am. Here are just some of the bill's shortcomings:
1. It requires only summary statements of many important aspects of the financial operations of these plans, making it possible to conceal many
2. There is no agency of government authorized to provide uniform interpretation of the bill's technical terms. The chaos that will result is obvious.
The failure to designate an agency which plan administrators can consult for reliable and authentic opinions, and for meaningful and uniform report forms, enables corrupt administrators to hide abuses, blocks beneficiaries from receiving adequate information, and subjects administrators to uncertainties in compliance.
3. The bill's reliance solely upon individual employees to compel compliance through court proceedings is most unrealistic.
Experience has shown that employee suits alone are inadequate as enforcement remedies. Unaided by governmental authority to conduct investigations and institute litigation, individual employees, without financial resources or legal experience, can be easily intimidated, made subject to reprisals and discouraged from taking effective action.
4. The bill fails to give the Secretary of Labor either investigatory or enforcement powers with respect to reports filed with him. Thus, he is for all practical purposes powerless to uncover abuses.
5. There is no provision for dealing directly with the most flagrant abuses, such as embezzlement and kickbacks, once they are uncovered. Yet this is certainly the kind of protection that the beneficiaries and the public have a right to expect from this legislation.
Not only did the Congress fail to appropriate any monies to administer the custodial and other functions of the Secretary under the bill, but the annual financial reports will not have to be furnished until as late as May 1960 if the plans are on a calendar year basis or for a period of 120 days after the completion of the fiscal year if they operate on a fiscal year basis.
If the bill is to be at all effective, it will require extensive amendment at the next session of the Congress.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Note: As enacted, S. 2888 is Public Law 85-836 (72 Stat. 997).
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233934