Halliburton rejiggered some workers' pensions. Then, taking advantage of a loophole that became law in Bush and Cheney's first few months in office, Halliburton screwed the workers out of a big chunk of their pension money using deceit.
It's a complicated story, but The New York Times has it here:
...Halliburton acquired the Olean division when it acquired Dresser Industries in 1998 - a deal that Vice President Dick Cheney, then Halliburton's chief executive, called a "win-win" transaction. Halliburton eventually merged the Dresser pension fund into one of its own, much smaller pension funds.
On Feb. 28, 2000, Halliburton sold its stake in the Olean unit. For pension purposes, it deemed the workers to have "terminated employment," it told them in form letters. It did not say so in these letters, but by treating them as if they had resigned, it stopped their vesting service in the pension plan. That meant that unless they had already turned 55 by March 1, 2000, they would be denied their early retirement benefit. The workers say none of this was explained to them at the time. A May 2000 memo shows the employees were told only that they would "remain active participants" in the plan, and would not be eligible to take out their money until they retired or terminated employment.
In August of that year, Mr. Cheney left Halliburton to join the Republican ticket. In 2001, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act was signed into law, including an obscure provision allowing an employer to consider workers legally severed from service if it sold the division where they worked. In July 2001, David J. Lesar, the new chief executive, executed an amendment to the pension plan, deleting four words: "or any successor thereof" from more than 150 pages. Until the deletion, the document barred workers from cashing out of the pension fund until they stopped working for their division, or any successor thereof.
This amendment was not disclosed to the work force at the time. It had the effect of allowing Halliburton to start urging workers to take their money and leave the pension fund.
So now Halliburton could legally encourage these workers to take early pension payouts -- "warning that [the workers] would otherwise lose their right to take their benefits in a single check," as the Times story notes -- and it did so, knowing that those payouts would be a fraction of what the workers had been led to expect.
... when the workers called Halliburton to enroll for their payouts in the summer of 2002, hundreds of them were told that the benefits available in their names were significantly less than what they expected....
Bill Chamberlin, a head draftsman at the division in Olean, said he was previously told he would receive about $60,000 but was offered just $28,000 by Halliburton....
Kathie Driscoll, a clerical worker, was 54 when she got her letter, urging her to take a benefit that was less than half what Dresser had earlier promised. She did, and a year later, she was laid off - just as she reached the age when she could have taken her early retirement subsidy, had it still been available. At about the same time, her mother suffered an incapacitating stroke. Ms. Driscoll lives with her mother and provides full-time care....
Did this affect the best known former Halliburton employee? Gosh, no:
Mr. Chamberlin and others expressed particular anger that when Mr. Cheney departed from Halliburton in 2000, he was too young to qualify for retirement benefits, but was granted a package worth millions of dollars anyway, through a special vote of the board.
Disgraceful -- but are you surprised?