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Doner’s Alan Kalter Opens Up (Sorta) About the Mysterious Pension Plan

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Update: Jeffrey Feiger‘s office claims they are not handling this case.

Below are excerpts from an e-mail Doner CEO/Chairman Alan Kalter sent to his staff regarding the pension plan no one seemed to know about. He says things like, “[r]ecently, an employee who voluntarily left was asked how he wanted his pension benefit addressed, as there are multiple options one has upon leaving the company. He was surprised to learn he had a pension. Happily so, but still surprised.”

Kalter goes on like this, indicating that the agency was on the ball about the pension matter because of this one employee. Right well, then we don’t feel so bad about revealing the many staffers had no idea the pension plan even existed. Because, you know, since you guys were all ready on top of it. Yeah, this e-mail probably isn’t the result of our reporting. Anyway, here’s more.

“We realized then, that we have failed to communicate this benefit properly to you. I apologize for that sin of omission.”

There’s a bunch more. Click continued to read it. There’s also some rumor that former employees have had to go through legal avenues in order to obtain their pensions &#151 some have even suggested that a class action suit is being compiled against the company as we speak. But maybe it won’t come to that now that the shop has gotten some transparency. Too little, too late? You tell us.

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More:What’s It Like Inside Doner, Right Now?


The last few weeks have truly been a “Tale of Two Cities” around here. We have implemented the difficult, unfortunate, but necessary reductions. It has been emotionally trying for everyone, those directly affected and the rest of us who are indirectly affected. I understand how difficult it is to part with friends and colleagues, and I also know how committed, resourceful, and resilient you are. That is the other tale.

During this same timeframe, our new business activity has been incredibly vibrant. We are now in six pitches, which is more active than we have ever been. In addition, we are producing some of the best work for our clients that we have ever done. Exciting new work for Mazda (including an amazing alternate reality game that you’ll soon be hearing more about), Minute Maid (a new campaign that broke on American Idol that is getting good buzz on YouTube), The UPS Store (a new campaign that utilizes a unique cardboard world and is causing very positive talk in blogs), Coleman (our first campaign for this iconic brand), and much more.

While you are focusing energy in positive ways, some others are focusing efforts in negative ways. I understand that some people are experiencing anger over the tough decisions we were forced to make. It is unfortunate and inexplicable that they would choose to act out that anger against the very people who were their colleagues and friends for years. I am empathetic to their situation, but I am disturbed that some of you have individually been attacked in a public forum, quite unfairly and inaccurately. Attacks on me are expected. Attacking you personally and the job you do, is completely unacceptable. Realistically, there is nothing we can do about it except continue to prove them wrong by our actions. I am confident that will happen.

I do want to clarify the pension issue. Yes, there is a long-standing defined benefit program, commonly referred to as a pension plan. With the introduction of 401k programs, many companies stopped bringing new employees into their program years ago. While our 401k program was introduced over 20 years ago, we waited until March of 2007 to stop bringing new employees into the Pension Plan. However, every U.S. employee prior to that is enrolled in the Plan, subject to certain eligibility requirements.

Recently, an employee who voluntarily left was asked how he wanted his pension benefit addressed, as there are multiple options one has upon leaving the company. He was surprised to learn he had a pension. Happily so, but still surprised. We realized then, that we have failed to communicate this benefit properly to you. I apologize for that sin of omission. The company not only contributes to your 401k, but we also contribute toward the Pension Plan, for those who are eligible. We tasked Aon (the plan’s outside actuaries) to develop individual benefit reports for every employee in the Plan. Each report is personalized to your individual employment history. You will receive your report through February 28, 2009, (the end of our fiscal year) within the next thirty days. And from now on you will receive an annual statement of your benefits each fiscal year after the final calculations are completed.

As for the rumor and innuendo about payment, there are two important things you should know. First, every former employees’ direction to us about their pension benefits has been honored. Without exception. Second, we are in compliance with the rules, regulations, and laws applying to pension plans, and continue making the necessary contributions as calculated by our actuaries. For those of you who are in our pension plan and didn’t realize it, you are about to get a pleasant surprise.

The Agency is healthy, both financially and spiritually. I am excited about what we are doing and I know we are all focused on the important priority of continuing to deliver innovative thinking, distinctive creative, and flawless execution for all our clients, including new ones. Thank you for that.

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